EDENTON — After seven years hiding in her grandmother’s attic in Edenton, Harriet Jacobs escaped to freedom in 1842. She went on to become an abolitionist, aid worker and author. A tribute to this remarkable life is being presented by Historic Edenton State Historic Site on Saturday, Feb. 9, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., at the Family Life Center of Edenton United Methodist Church.
Born a slave in 1813, Jacobs recorded the degradation of slavery and sexual oppression, and escaped from a master who sought to possess her. She went on to become friends with many in the abolitionist community in the North. An abolitionist-feminist friend encouraged her to write her story, which she did under the pseudonym Linda Brent. Her book, “Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl” is the first antebellum autobiography by a black woman, and an archetype in the genre of slave narrative. The program will examine her work as a champion for freedom and with freedmen after the Civil War.
In addition to celebrating the bicentennial of Jacob’s birth, the program celebrates the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation and the 300th anniversary of the town of Edenton. The Elizabeth City State University Ensemble led by Dr. Walter Swan will perform. Antoinette Johnson will present an excerpt of her one-woman show based on Jacob’s life.
Speakers include Dr. Jean Fagan Yellin, who researched “Incidents” and documented that the account was written by a black woman, which some scholars discredited. Her topic is “Harriet Jacobs in 1813 and 2013.”
Dr. Jeffrey Crow, co-author of “A History of African Americans in North Carolina,” and past director of the N.C. Office of Archives and History, will speak on “From Celestial to Earthly Politics: Abraham Lincoln and the Emancipation Proclamation.” Michelle Lanier, director of the African American Heritage Commission, will speak on “Her Eyes Had Seen the Glory: Harriet Jacobs as Civil War-Era Witness and Activist.” Historian Wanda Hunt McLean will speak on “Harriet Jacobs and Waters of Freedom: Documentation of the Maritime Underground Railroad.”
Registration for the program is $25. Student registration is $12. For additional information call Historic Edenton at (252) 482-2637. Make checks payable to the N.C. Literary and Historical Association, and mail payment to Historic Edenton at 108 North Broad Street, Edenton, N.C., 27932. Advanced registration guarantees lunch. Historic Edenton is part of the Division of State Historic Sites in the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources.
Sponsors along with the Historic Edenton State Historic Site include the Chowan County Tourism Development Authority, Edenton Historical Commission, Elizabeth City State University, N.C. African American Heritage Commission and the N.C. Literary and Historical Association.