An Exploration of Enslaved Girlhood Through the Stories of Harriet Jacobs and Her Family

Author: ORCID icon
Leverett, MaDeja, History - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Hill Edwards, Justene, History, University of Virginia
Varon, Elizabeth, History, University of Virginia

The intersections of anti-Black racism and sexism significantly impacted the lived experiences of enslaved girls. In antebellum America, enslaved girls and women were among the most vulnerable members of society. They experienced the evils of enslavement differently than their male counterparts due to their intersectional identities. Enslaved, Black girls experienced sexual violence and exploitation at the hands of their enslavers. These violations of their bodies were due to their enslavers’ need for control over their reproductive labor which undergirded the institution of enslavement and protected the economic prosperity of enslavers. Enslaved girls were deprived of innocence and sexual purity due to the conditions of their environment which led to the drastic shift from girlhood to womanhood. This essay explores the intricacies of enslaved girlhood by examining the life of Harriet Jacobs and the girlhood stories of her grandmother Molly, her mother Delilah, and her daughter Louisa Jacobs.

MA (Master of Arts)
enslavement, girls, antebellum America
Issued Date: