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Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl

Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl


by Harriet Jacobs

Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl Theme of Religion

Rape is bad, but not being able to go to church? Now that's a sin. Under slavery, religion becomes an instrument of evil. She reminds us that slaveholders tried to use religion to keep their slaves in check. After Nat Turner’s insurrection, the elite whites hire a free black man to deliver sermons to their slaves on the importance of being obedient. Jacobs aimed her anti-slavery message in Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl at northern Christian women, so it was important for her to show slavery makes heathens out of black people. Maybe, she suggests, white women could spend more time abolishing slavery and less time funding foreign missions.

Questions About Religion

  1. How does Incidents show religion being used to justify slavery? How is it used to condemn slavery?
  2. How does Jacobs use the Bible in Incidents? What is the purpose of her many Biblical quotations?
  3. According to Linda, can someone be a good Christian and participate in slavery as either slave or master?
  4. According to the novel, what role does music play in African-American spirituality?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

Jacobs appeals to her northern religious readers by adopting a religious, pious narrative persona.

Incidents suggests that slave-holders often manipulated religion to suit their own ends.

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