Evelyn Higginbotham's Incidents In The Life Of A Slave Girl

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Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl is a narrative on life as a slave. “African-American Women’s History and the Metalanguage of Race” defines what race is and its influence. Several of the points made in the latter can be seen in the former. They show that enslaved black women received no protection from the law, were held to a harsh stereotype that wasn’t their fault, and couldn’t expect sympathy from white women simply because of their shared gender.
Enslaved black women were not entitled to protection from the law. Evelyn Higginbotham points out that this was because the word ‘lady’ was only applied to white women and not enslaved black women. This is shown when Higginbotham describes the case of the State of Missouri v. Celia. Celia was an enslaved woman who killed her master when he tried to force himself on her. The defense was that women were “protected from attempts to ravish.” However, since she was black and was not seen as a woman the law was not applied to her. In effect an enslaved woman had no recourse to the law and was entirely limited to the mercy of her master. Harriet Jacobs also encountered this when her
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Higginbotham argues that women were judged by “race and class as well as gender.” Black women were seen as “hypersexual” and one white woman even stated that ‘I cannot imagine such a creation as a virtuous black woman.’ This was mainly due to attempts to justify the rape of enslaved black women. Jacobs also encountered this when she told Mr. Durham about her children and answered questions he had about her life in the South. He responded by saying that ‘[her] straight-forward answers do [her] credit; but don’t answer everybody so openly. It might give some heartless people a pretext for treating [her] with contempt.’ He is almost certainly warning her because some people might unfairly use instances from her life as proof of the stereotype for black
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