Revealing Incidents: Harriet Jacobs and the new Black female virtue
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In her narrative Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Jacobs recounts the intended suppression and destruction of her own virtue by her master Dr. Flint. Rather than submit to Dr. Flint's demands, she subverts not only his authority as a male but also as her master, and at the same time she sacrifices her virginity to another man. She uses Incidents to advance a notion of nineteenth-century black female virtue as a counter to the white female Cult of True Womanhood. While scholars have for the most part explored the way in which Jacobs rearticulates, challenges, negotiates, or constructs womanhood and motherhood, I suggest that Jacobs moves beyond a mere redefinition or re-articulation of the Cult of True Womanhood. Instead, I maintain that Jacobs actually creates a new context within which female virtue can be considered. That is, she identifies virtue, rather than physical purity, as a term to be applied to women's moral qualities.