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John S. Jacobs, 1815-1875
A True Tale of Slavery. From The Leisure Hour: A Family Journal of Instruction and Recreation, February 7, 14, 21, 28, 1861
London: Stevens and Co., 1861.


"A True Tale of Slavery" was a serialized narrative that appeared in four issues of The Leisure Hour: A Family Journal of Instruction and Recreation in February 1861. Although no byline credit is given, the author includes the transcript of a letter he wrote signed John Jacobs, Harriet Jacobs's brother. He was born in Edenton, North Carolina to slave parents who died when he was a child. He belonged to four different masters who lived in and around Edenton. John and Harriet Jacobs both suffered under slavery, and they were determined to free themselves. Harriet hid in their free grandmother's Edenton home for almost seven years, waiting for a time when she could escape with her children to the North. John escaped in New York during his master's honeymoon tour. He soon learned that his sister had also escaped successfully. They were reunited and moved to Boston together. Following the enactment of the Fugitive Slave Law, John left the United States, while Harriet remained behind with her employer, who eventually bought her freedom from slave-catchers. The final installment of Jacobs's narrative, dated February 28, 1861, is a compilation of anecdotes about how slaves were treated in the South and a discussion of the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850.

Please note: Jean Fagan Yellin has attributed this slave narrative to John Jacobs, Harriet Jacobs's brother. For Yellin's introduction to this narrative, see: Jacobs, Harriet, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Ed. Jean Fagan Yellin, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2000.

Monique Prince

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