ABSTRACT

Although race and gender in African American slave narratives have been studied a great deal over the past twenty-five years, the role of class and class awareness in nineteenth-century slave narratives has not received much attention. Although many midcentury slave narratives manifest aspects of class and an awareness of class differences not only between whites and blacks but among blacks themselves, Harriet Jacobs’s Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl is especially illustrative of class distinctions among both free and enslaved people. Class awareness in Incidents often emerges from a sense of personal as well as familial identity that is inflected, in various scenes in Jacobs’s narrative, in ways that suggest a conscious or unconscious sense of status, merit, and expectations held by members of the Jacobs-Horniblow clan. I explore some of the ways that the clan’s consciousness of itself as a special class of people in Edenton, North Carolina, shaped Harriet’s values and sense of herself through the influence of her formidable grandmother, the matriarch of the clan, Molly Horniblow.