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Collections >> Titles by Harriet A. Jacobs (Harriet Ann) >> Report of Harriet Jacobs' work with Freedmen in Alexandria, Va., The Freedmen's Record, February 1865


FROM The Freedmen's Record, February 1865, p. 19

MANY of our readers are familiar with a book called "Linda; or, the Autobiography of a Slave Girl." Perhaps few of them know that this slave girl is now one of the most zealous and efficient workers in the Freedmen's cause. Mrs. Harriet Jacobs was sent to Alexandria more than two years ago, by a society of Friends in New York, to look after the Freedmen who were gathered there. Her first winter's service was a very hard one. Small-pox and other diseases made fearful havoc among the people; and all her energies were exhausted in caring for their physical needs.

She has been unwearied in her labors, in providing orphan children with homes, in nursing the sick, in assisting the able-bodied to find work, and in encouraging all in habits of industry and self-reliance. They have established a school, and sent to the New-England Society for assistance in maintaining it. We offered them a teacher, and sent them Miss Virginia Lawton, a young colored woman of good education and great worth of character (the grand-daughter of one well known to the fashionable circles in Boston, as the administrator of good things at weddings, christenings, parties, and other merry-makings), who has taught there for a year. They have this autumn completed their school-house; and, as the school was too large for Miss Lawton's care, we have sent them also Mr. Banfield, a finely educated young man from New Hampshire, who enters most heartily into the work. The most remarkable feature of Linda's slave life was this: to escape the persecution of a master not cruel, but cruelly kind; she hid in a small loft, under the roof of her grandmother's house, where light and air came only through the chinks in the boards, and where she lay concealed for seven years, within sound both of her children's voices and of her master's threats, before she succeeded in escaping altogether from the town.

No doubt, when she sank to sleep over-wearied with the monotony of suffering, visions of hope and joy came through the golden gate of slumber, which snatched her away from her vile den, and gave her strength and courage to endure still longer. But was any dream of the night dearer and sweeter to her than the present reality?—her people freed, and the school-house, built mainly by her own exertions, named in her honor, and presided over by black and white teachers, working harmoniously together.

And yet, this woman, this lady,—who for years has been treated as a friend in the family of one of our celebrated literary men, and who has won the respect and love of all who have associated with her,—cannot ride in the street-cars at Washington, and is insulted even in a concert-room in Boston, on account of the slight tinge of color in her skin.

We have made great progress; but much yet remains to be done. We add extracts from letters of the teachers of this school.

Titles by Harriet A. Jacobs (Harriet Ann)