Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl
by Harriet Jacobs
Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl Rules and Order Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Chapter.Paragraph
It was a grand opportunity for the low whites, who had no negroes of their own to scourge. They exulted in such a chance to exercise a little brief authority, and show their subservience to the slaveholders; not reflecting that the power which trampled on the colored people also kept themselves in poverty, ignorance, and moral degradation. (12.4)
Although many poor whites did not own slaves, wealthy slaveholders often recruited them to do the dirty work of maintaining order. An elaborate system of racial prejudice keeps poor whites from recognizing that they have more in common with slaves than they realize—just like white women and black women.
When my baby was about to be christened, the former mistress of my father stepped up to me, and proposed to give it her Christian name. To this I added the surname of my father, who had himself no legal right to it; for my grandfather on the paternal side was a white gentleman. What tangled skeins are the genealogies of slavery! I loved my father; but it mortified me to be obliged to bestow his name on my children. (14.11)
Laws even deprived slaves of their family heritage. Jacobs wants her readers to understand that the things they take for granted—their names, for instance—do not even exist as a possibility for a legally subjugated people.
I knew the law would decide that I was his [Dr. Flint] property, and would probably still give his daughter a claim to my children; but I regarded such laws as the regulations of robbers, who had no rights that I was bound to respect. (38.3)
Linda doesn't recognize the laws of slavery. She considers them illegal, because they're created by lawbreakers—"robbers."