Pace University Scholar Wins Grant to Edit Fugitive Slave Papers

Pace University Scholar Wins Grant to Edit Fugitive Slave Papers

NEW YORK
Harriet Jacobs (1813-1897), the fugitive slave who wrote the landmark memoir Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl: Written by Herself, is the only African American woman held in slavery whose papers are known to exist.
Fifteen years ago, against the prevailing judgment, Dr. Jean Fagan Yellin, a Pace University professor of English, established that Jacobs’ book indeed was “written by herself,” as its subtitle announces, and not by Lydia Maria Child, a White abolitionist writer whose authorship commentators had long assumed. In 1988, Yellin published an edition of Incidents with Harvard University Press and the book soon became a classic, used in thousands of college and high-school courses on American history and literature and in ethnic, women’s and American studies.
Now the Ford Foundation has awarded a grant of $100,000 to Yellin and her staff to support the completion of a two-volume edition of Harriet Jacobs’ papers, which the University of North Carolina Press has contracted to publish.
The grant comes at a time when Yellin’s scholarship is being recognized in other ways. A distinguished professor emeritus at Pace, her biography of Jacobs, Harriet Jacobs: A Life, was published recently by Basic Civitas Books. The January/February issue of Humanities, the bimonthly publication of the National Endowment of the Humanities, carries an article on the Jacobs papers and PBS will air a documentary featuring Harriet Jacobs in October 2004.
“Histories cannot be written, nor films produced, nor curricula developed which express the historic pluralism of our national culture until the words and acts of African American women held in slavery are heard,” Yellin said. “Without the Harriet Jacobs papers, millions of 19th-century African American women would remain without a voice.”  



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