Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl By Harriet A. Jacobs Summary and Analysis Chapter 41

Summary

Linda receives several letters from her grandmother, one of which informs her that Dr. Flint is dead. Although somewhat relieved at the news, Linda realizes that she is still in danger from Dr. Flint's family. Shortly thereafter, Linda happens across a newspaper article announcing the arrival of Mr. and Mrs. Dodge. Fearing that her former mistress will find her, Linda goes to Mrs. Bruce, who again helps her escape, sending her baby with her. When people come to the house looking for her, they are told that she no longer lives there.

To confirm her suspicions that Dr. Flint's daughter and son-in-law have come to take her back with them, one of Linda's friends visits Emily and her husband and reports back to Linda.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Bruce arranges to buy Linda for $300 and gives her her freedom.

Linda's grandmother lives to rejoice in her granddaughter's freedom, but dies shortly thereafter.

A short time later, Linda receives an obituary notice of Phillip's death. For a slave to have an obituary notice is an unusual and rare event.

Free at last, Linda continues to live with Mrs. Bruce and her family and recalls that, despite all the pain she has endured, she has the comforting memories of her grandmother, who helped her survive her harrowing ordeal.

Analysis

After slavery ended, blacks faced harsh realities because of their skin color. They still suffer the pain and humiliation of prejudice, discrimination, and racism. For decades, blacks fought valiantly for their human and civil rights. Congress continued to pass legislation designed to disfranchise blacks, denying them the rights of U.S. citizenship, especially the right to vote. By 1910, seven Southern states had adopted some or all of the following measures to disfranchise African Americans:

The poll tax: This law stipulated that voters must pay a tax in order to vote. Because most blacks could not afford to pay the tax, they were denied the right to vote.

The property test: This test required that a man must own a certain amount of property in order to vote, a requirement that few blacks and poor whites could meet. (Women were not granted the right to vote until 1920.)

The literacy test: This test required that a man must be able to read in order to vote; white election officials decided who passed the test.

The grandfather clause: This clause waived literacy and property tests for those men whose grandfathers had been eligible to vote before the Civil War, a requirement that few blacks could meet.

White primary elections: These primary or nominating elections were not covered by the 15th Amendment (which gave blacks the right to vote), and Southern Democrats could ban black men from participating.

The myth of white supremacy, which held that blacks were innately inferior to whites, was still perpetuated by many Southern whites, who continued to debate the competence and basic humanity of blacks. For example, in his speech delivered at the University of Virginia on February 20, 1948, William Faulkner stated:

"Perhaps the Negro is not yet capable of more than second-class citizenship. His tragedy may be that so far he is competent for equality only in the ratio of his white blood. . . . the Negro is not yet capable of, or refuses to accept, the responsibilities of equality. So we, the white man, must take him in hand and teach him that responsibility." (from William Faulkner's Essays, Speeches, and Public Letters, Chapman, Abraham, editor, Black Voices: An Anthology of Afro-American Literature. New York: Penguin Books, 1968: 43).

The struggle for equal opportunities for blacks in the United States continues. Note that, therefore, Brent's work, although published in 1861, is still relevant today, and the struggles of black women continue, albeit on a different level.

Although Linda spent nearly her whole life fighting for freedom, she never achieved social, economic, and political freedom. At the end of her story, her greatest frustration is that she still cannot provide for herself and her family. Also note that before she became physically free, Linda had achieved mental and spiritual freedom, which enabled her to continue on despite incredible hardships and countless setbacks.

Thanks to her strong family roots and the positive examples of her uncles, brother, and grandmother, she saw herself as inherently worthy of freedom and refused to accept anything less. Consequently, she is a strong role model for today's black men and women, some of whom must face seemingly insurmountable hardships, as blacks struggle for full human and civil rights. Clearly, Linda Brent's courageous story entails lessons that are still relevant today.

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After Linda escapes from Mr. Flint's plantation, her relatives advise her to do what?




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