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Lyons Den Books

Letters From a Slave Girl: The Story of Harriet Jacobs (an historical novel)

(Scribner, 1992, Aladdin paperback, 1996 ISBN:0-689-80015-0) 
Jacket illustration copyright ©1992 by Todd L. W. Doney.

Harriet Jacobs was born enslaved in Edenton, North Carolina, in 1813. She hid in a garret for seven years, then escaped to the north in 1842. 

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GarretIllustration of garret ©1992 by Nancy Takahashi

In 1828 Harriet's grandmother, Molly Horniblow, used savings from her baking business to buy a cottage. Her son built two enclosed rooms on the rear porch. Molly may have used one as a spare bedroom. The other was a storeroom where she would have kept canned goods and barrels of flour and cornmeal.  In the corner of the storeroom, Molly's son built a cupboard with a trap door.  After Harriet escaped from the slaveholder, Doctor Norcom, she climbed up through the trap door and hid in the space above. 

The picture to the left is a "cutaway" view that lets you see Harriet's hidey hole (the real hidey hole had a roof). Right-click your mouse and choose Print.  Imagine what Harriet could see from within her tiny space and write a description next to the picture.




As a project for a science fair, Women’s History Month, or Black History Month, construct a replica of Harriet’s hidey hole. (Thanks to the Village School in Charlottesville, Virginia, for this idea.)

Dimensions: between three and four feet high, about nine feet long

Cover the slanted roof and the vertical side with black poster paper.

Display the replica in your school library. You could also set it up at a local shopping center or on a pedestrian mall. To explain the exhibit, type a short summary of Harriet’s story.  Reproduce as fliers.  The fliers can invite people to sit inside Harriet’s hidey hole and experience her imprisonment.


Harriet's grandmother, Molly Horniblow, was a baker. Income from her cooking skills provided comfort, shelter, and freedom for her family. On page eight of LETTERS FROM A SLAVE GIRL, Molly teaches Harriet how to bake crackers. Try this similar recipe. As you serve the crackers, give two examples from the book that show how Molly used her baking skills to help her family.

4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup butter
1 cup milk

1. Sift together flour, sugar, and salt.
2. Cut in butter with a pastry blender or two knives until mixture looks mealy.
3. Stir in enough milk to make a stiff dough.
4. Roll about 1/4 inch thick on a lightly floured board and cut with a large round cooky cutter.
5. Prick surface in many places with fork tines and brush lightly with milk.
6. Place on an ungreased baking sheet and bake in a 425× oven for 15 to 18 minutes or until light gold in color. Makes several   dozen.



Choose any letter from LETTERS FROM A SLAVE GIRL. Write a response to Harriet and post it in the Mailbox. Tell her about yourself and offer advice.

You will receive a reply!

Click to see a photo of the real Harriet Jacobs.