Harriet Jacobs

Throughout her meteoric rise into the upper ranks of young playwrights, Lydia R. Diamond has boldly challenged assumptions about African American culture. In Harriet Jacobs, she turns one of the greatest of American slave narratives, Jacobs’ Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, into a penetrating, rousing work of theater. Jacobs’ book—which was published in 1861 and only partially serialized in Horace Greely’s New York Tribune before it was deemed too graphic—chillingly exposed the sexual harassment and abuse of slave girls and women at the hands of their masters. Harriet Jabobs: A Play organically incorporates theatrical elements that extend the book’s enormous power. Through active scenes, piercing direct address, and slave narratives, Diamond is able to give new expression to the horrors and legacies of slavery. Diamond presents African American culture in all its richness—with slavery as a part of it, but not its defining aspect. Though harrowing, Harriet Jacobs addresses the necessary task of reenvisioning a difficult chapter in American history.

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