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Harriet Jacobs Tours

Event Description

In honor of Harriet Jacobs’ brave journey out of slavery, Historic Edenton State Historic Site will be offering guided Harriet Jacobs tours every Friday and Saturday in the month of February and March, African-American History Month and Women's History Month. In addition, we will be offering bi-monthly tour dates (see event dates in facebook link). This includes large groups or private tours. If you would like to reserve your tour, email
Erica.Smith@ncdcr.gov or call Erica Smith at 252-482-2637. Tours are $2.50 per person, (cash or check). Edenton-Chowan School groups are FREE.

Who is Harriet Jacobs?
Harriet was born into slavery in Edenton in 1813 under the ownership of the Horniblow family, who owned a well-known tavern next door to the 1767 Chowan County Courthouse. She was the daughter of Elijah and Delilah Jacobs. Her father worked as an enslaved carpenter; her mother passed early in Harriet's childhood. Harriet was taught reading, writing and sewing and with the death of her mistress, she was inherited by Mary Matilda Norcom, the young niece of Mrs. Horniblow. This brought Harriet under the control of Dr. James Norcom, Mary Matilda’s father. While living in his home Harriet was subjected to inappropriate advances from Norcom and cruel treatment from his wife. She resisted this treatment and sought permission to marry a free African American carpenter, but Norcom refused. Afterward, she began a relationship with Samuel Tredwell Sawyer, a prominent lawyer in town. The couple had two children, Joseph in 1829 and Louisa Matilda in 1833. Harriet faced renewed advances from Norcom and threats to her family. After Norcom sought to punish Harriet by threatening to send her to work on a plantation, she went into hiding with friends and family. Her main hiding place was the tiny attic space of her grandmother’s home where she remained for almost seven years. Dr. Norcom placed this ad in newspapers in an effort to find her. By 1842, Harriet was able to escape out of Edenton's harbor by ship to New York. There she worked as a nurse for a child and became active in the Abolitionist Movement. In 1853, she wrote a book about her experiences of slavery known as Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. With the coming of the Civil War, Harriet worked nursing soldiers and teaching freedmen. After the war, she and her daughter ran a boarding house in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Her death came in 1897 and she was buried in Cambridge. This tour tells of her life and her struggle for freedom.