The writings of Harriet Jacobs and Sojourner Truth exemplify that the sufferings of black women were far worst than that of their male counterparts. All slaves were forced to endure the physical and emotional turmoil of bondage, however, for the enslaved woman, race and gender presented a double oppression. Women slaves experienced peculiar wrongs and injustices to which men slaves were not subject. These wrongs included sexual harassment and exploitation, denial of the basic rights and benefits of motherhood, and gender inequalities. In Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Harriet Jacobs dramatically documents the claim "Slavery is terrible for men; but it is far more terrible for women. Superadded to the burden common to all, they have wrongs, and sufferings, and mortifications peculiarly their own." Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl was a political effort to help other sisters in bondage by exposing the sexual inflictions placed upon slave women.
Jacobs fashioned her life story into Linda Brent's first-person account of a heroic slave mother who endured twenty-seven years of slavery. Brent's rational power and strength of personal will helped facilitate her efforts to find strategies for dealing with sexual harassment from her master, maintaining family unity, and for eventually obtaining freedom, both personally and for her children. She devised a plan of action including her choice to have a sexual relationship with a white man, other than her master, to protect herself from further sexual harassment from her owner, Dr. Flint. In doing so, she supported her integrity and moral code by resisting her owner's sexual efforts and choosing who would have access to her body - "It seems less degrading to give one's self, than to submit to compulsion." Women slaves were also subjected to further cruelty and injustices because they were often denied the basic rights and benefits of motherhood. Women slaves were not allowed a traditional home and could not embrace their children.
For at anytime, they could be stripped from their breast and sold. In Ain't I a Woman? Sojourner Truth writes: "I have borne thirteen children, and seen them most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother's grief, none but Jesus heard me!" This suggests that only Jesus could hear and understand a mother's grief and not even a slave father would experience the same heartache as a mother slave who has had her child / children taken away. Harriet Jacobs' pseudonym Brent gives birth to two children fathered by a white man she calls Mr. Sands, who promises to buy their freedom. Brent later escapes from Dr. Flint and hides at her grandmother's house in a small shed, measuring only nine feet long by seven feet wide.
She endures life in a small and dismal hole for nearly seven years, deprived of light and air, and with no space to move her limbs. Year after year, she viewed her children's faces through a small opening, yearning to let them know she was hiding there and to be with them. Following the partial abolishment of slavery, black men were given some liberties, however, black women continued to endure further injustices. Sojourner Truth's poem Keeping the Thing Going While Things are Stirring addresses the gender inequalities and the beginnings of the black woman suffrage movement.
Black men were granted judicial representation, the right to vote, and were paid twice as much as colored women for the doing the same tasks. In the poem, Truth remarks: "There is a great stir about colored men getting their rights, but not a word about the colored women; and if colored men get their rights, and not colored women theirs, you see the colored men will be masters over the women, and it will be just as bad as it was before." Truth advocates for equal rights to include not just black men, but also black women. She further asserts that female slaves should be entitled to the same benefits of freedom as their male counterparts, otherwise black women will become enslaved to black men as they were to their previous white masters. Harriet Jacobs and Sojourner Truth have found their place in history for protesting the abuses perpetrated against slaves. Their writings also extend beyond mere slave narratives and poetry as important feminist documents. The hardships of the black slave women far surpass those of their male counterparts.
Both authors illustrate the additional hardships and struggles afflicted upon women slaves. In the poem Ain't I a Woman? , Truth remarks: "If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back, and get it right side up again!" Slave women in particular have endured and tried to set the world right side up by seeking freedom and equality for all man, and "woman" - kind.