Edenton, North Carolina: An Historic Town

The Historic Edenton Court House

My journey to Edenton, North Carolina, actually began in a women’s history class back in 2003. I was attending classes at Palomar College in San Diego County when I stumbled into the classroom of a history professor who could tell a story better than any person I have ever met. That professor, Dr. Linda Dudik, had no idea, at the time, just how much her stories would change the direction of my life. Originally a film major, I changed to history after only two semesters in her classes.

In class I always sat front and center, just as a good “non-traditional student” tends to do. By mid-semester the class had progressed to learning about women making a difference in the early 1800s. One day, the class topic was a discussion about a woman from the days of slavery. As my professor told the story, she held a book in her hands, facing the cover toward the class, and, as I listened, the image of a woman, a former slave woman, Harriet Jacobs, was truly becoming burned into my mind and soul. Sitting there, I had no idea just how much I would eventually learn about this woman and about the institution that oppressed her.

This is the only known picture of Harriet Jacobs.

Harriet Jacobs was born a slave in Edenton, NC in 1813 to slave parents, Delilah, a slave of Margaret Horniblow, and Daniel Jacobs, a slave of Andrew Knox. She would lose her mother at the age of six, her “kind mistress” six years later, and her father within two years after that. By the age of twelve, Harriet Jacobs was the property of a man, Dr. James Norcom, an Edenton doctor, who would spend years sexually harrassing her. His sexual advances toward Jacobs would be rejected by her over and over again. In Jacobs’ effort to turn her master’s desires away from herself, she had two children with a man, Samuel Tredwell Sawyer, a local lawyer and future North Carolina State Congressman. But this action only proved to make Norcom more determined to force Jacobs to bend to his will.

Dr. James Norcom
Threatened with life in the fields of a plantation, Jacobs made the decision to run away in order to spare her children that hard life. After running away, Jacobs was hiding closer than Norcom ever knew; she hid in the garret above her grandmother’s bakery and home. The space was very cramped and there was little to no light or air, but she remained in this hiding space for six years and eleven months. Jacobs would be permanately crippled from life in this tiny space. She only left the safety of the garret and headed north to freedom after Sawyer was able to secure his children from Dr. Norcom, their master. Norcom would hunt for Jacobs for the rest of his life, but he would never find her. Jacobs would finally be freed for good after a friend, an abolishionist woman, bought Harriet’s freedom. Jacobs went on to serve as a nurse in the Civil War and once the war ended, and freedom was given to all African Americans, she dedicated her life, until her death in March of 1897, to opening schools and educating newly freed children.
Jacobs' historic marker Edenton, NC

As I listened to Jacobs’ story, I wondered why I had never heard of this person before? I soon learned that Harriet Jacobs had written her story, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Written by Herself, under the pseudonym Linda Brent. It was believed, by literature professors and historians alike, that the book was, in fact, fiction. Fortunately, in the early 1980s, Jean Fagan Yellin, Distinguished Professor Emerita of English at Pace University, became interested in the book and unearthed the facts that proved the story true. Years of research by Yellin have provided us the gift of wonderful scholarship, more than any historian could have ever hoped for before. In addition to Frederick Douglas’ narrative, which presents us with an understanding of life for the child and male slave, now, because of Yellin’s research, we have an understanding of life as a female slave. Like Douglas, Jacobs wrote her own story of slavery.

I wanted to learn more. No, I had to learn more.

Once I began studying at CSUSM, I was fortunate enough to take several classes that presented me with the opportunity to not only learn more about Harriet Jacobs, but about the institution of American slavery as well. I had been so moved by Jacobs’ story that, after graduation from college in 2008, my first journey to a historical site was to visit Edenton, North Carolina. I wanted to walk in the footsteps of the woman whose story gave my life a new and meaningful direction. Arriving in Edenton, I was immediately struck by how quaint the town still remains to this day. There is water visible in all directions as you drive into town. The people are friendly and you can walk the entire town, from water’s edge to water’s edge, in one days visit. I spent time at the Edenton Historical Society and was able to visit a small exhibit, much smaller than I had imagined or anticipated, that was dedicated to Jacobs and the telling of her remarkable story.

As I walked from one landmark to another, I found myself surprised at just how close Molly Horniblow lived from Dr. Norcom. Molly Horniblow was Harriet Jacobs’ grandmother. Had Molly’s home still been there, I could have stood on its roof and thrown a rock, really hard, and probably could have hit Norcom’s home.

The site where Molly Horniblow's house sat. Please note the brick building in the background that is facing away from this view. This will be a landmark I will point out to you in noting just how close Jacobs hid from Norcom.
I am standing across the street, but directly in front, of the site where Norcom's house once stood, looking toward Broad Street. That brick building on the right side of the image, hidden slightly by the yellow house, is the short distance to Jacobs hiding place.

Standing in the middle of the intersection at E. King and S. Broad I realized that this was where the slave market was held in Edenton. It was there that Molly Horniblow trusted a white friend to buy her own freedom when she was offered for sale after the death of her mistress. In the end, the white friend used the money Molly had saved baking goods for locals, and purchased her. Ultimately, Molly had purchased her own freedom. Once free, and with the help of a local laywer, Molly opened a bakery in the Edenton community. It was in a small space above that bakery where Jacobs hid from her harrasser.

I also took time to stand at the water’s edge and look out at the seemingly endless body of water. I tried to imagine what Harriet Jacobs must have felt, as a slave, being surrounded by water, knowing it was a body of water that acted as the barrier that bound her to slavery. Water, as far as the eye could see, was the distance she would have to travel to be truly free. I felt completely overwhelmed by this thought. My professor, the one who introduced me to Jacobs, would say I “felt history” that day and I must admit, I have to agree with her.

Jacobs' barrier to freedom!

I also walked past the site of Norcom’s medical office, no longer the original building however, and the Horniblow Tavern, which was located immediately to the left of the Court House. The Horniblow Tavern is where Jacobs spent most of her childhood, as her grandmother was owned by and worked for the Horniblow’s.

The jail house from the back. The backside of the court house is also visible.

The one structure that is still available for viewing, other than the historic court house, is the jail. I felt fortunate to be able to visit this site because it is where Jacobs’ children and brother were held, at Norcom’s request, in the weeks after she disappeared.

To look into that jail was emotionally moving. The cells seemed stacked in there so tightly, and there was very little room in each cell or within the walk ways between the cells, that is was unfathomable what life was like in there. The bunks were stacked three beds high, were made of steel, and had pads that were only about two inches thick. I just stared in as I thought about Jacobs’ children and how scared they must have been while they were kept there.

The inside of the jail cells.

I also walked over to the old slave cemetery. I wanted to honor Jacobs’ family members who were buried there. We walked just to the edge of town and on the corner of Martin Luther King Blvd. we stopped. There, in front of us, was about thirty graves. Each grave was marked by 4′ high white posts (they looked like the legs of a table) absent of names and years of birth and death. Some of the graves had sunk in because of the time that has passed. We found a marker that had been dedicated to the grave site in 2001. On that marker, tribute was not only being paid to Jacobs, but to Molly Horniblow as well. It was very moving to see how this woman, who risked her own freedom, and her life, in order to hide her grand-daughter for so many years, was being remembered for her contribution to history.

The cemetery where Jacobs' parents and grandmother are buried.
The Marker honoring Molly Horniblow

My experience in Edenton, NC was eye-opening and meaningful. I learned more from simply walking in the footsteps of Jacobs than I anticipated and was so glad I made the trip. I have been back three times in the past two years and I know I will visit Edenton, and Harriet Jacobs, again.

But there is more to see and experience in Edenton, North Carolina. Did you know that Edenton served as the State Capital for a short period of time? Yep! But in name only. In 1722, the State Assembly voted Edenton the capital because of its location and its easy access as a sea port. But before any structures could be built in the creation of the newly named capital city, people begun moving away from Edenton, heading to another port in New Bern, NC. The State Capital remained located in New Bern until 1788, when, at a State Convention, the decision was made to relocate the capital to what was then known as Wake County. But there is still much more history to learn about and sites to visit when you head to Edenton.

Probably most notably, there is the wonderful Barker House which is located right on the water’s edge across Edenton Bay.

The site of the 2nd Tea Party

An Edenton local, Penelope Barker, organized a tea party that was the first political action taken by women in the colonies. The tea party, held one year after the famous Boston Tea Party, caused a huge brouhaha that cartoonists in England, believing it ridiculous that women had any sense to even be discussing the topic of freedom, made fun of the event in print.

There is a print of this image located inside the home and it is discussed as you tour the site. The Barker House is open to visitors from 10 am until 4 pm daily. It also serves as the home of the Edenton Historical Commission. Currently, the Barker House is undergoing major restoration to save the home so that many generations to come will be able to enjoy a visit to this historical spot.

You will enjoy your time in Edenton. Make sure you stop in at the Visitor’s Center and the Historical Society to gather walking maps and to learn other historic facts about this lovely town. Consider having lunch at Waterman’s Grill down on the waterfront. They make wonderful crabcakes and their desserts are to die for. Edenton, NC is a great place to spend a day! Enjoy!

57 thoughts on “Edenton, North Carolina: An Historic Town

      1. I agree with Maria! I plan to visit next month so that I can capture the spirit of Harriet and try to link my family surname ‘JACOBS’

      2. I just recently finished reading Harriet Jacob’s story and I can’t stop thinking about her. I was so thrilled to see this post from you with your research. I have a second home in Hertford, NC and visit from Northern VA about every three weeks. I get to Edenton quite often and plan to visit the places you wrote about. Thanks for posting.

      3. I am so happy of your description of Edenton you described it so that i am eager to visit this historic town. I am working on Harriet Jacobs Book I ll be happy if you can give me some information about her. I am living in Paris and it is not easy for me to travel to the USA

    1. I am fascinated by this–is there any information about Dr. Andrew Knox? In all probability I am related to him. I’m teaching Harriet Jacobs at the moment, and the thought of my family having been the bad guy–as seems likely–is anything but pleasant, but I would like to know. Most of my branch of Knoxes settled in Statesville and in the Piedmont area, and had been in that area since at least the 17th century. Thank you for any information you may be able to send me.

  1. Wow! I live in Norfolk and I had no idea about Edenton, NC which is only an hours drive away from me. I think I am going to try to get down there this summer. I looked into the Barker House and the history of that site is quite remarkable. I will be checking out your blog often….thanks! Donna

  2. Thank you so much for this great posting and the legwork you put into the project. I’ll be teaching Jacobs’s memoir this fall, and your site will be on the reading list of other recommended materials.

    1. Yes, and thank you for asking. You can search for my page on FB at American History for Travelers. You will know you have the right page if the profile pic shows a cannon ball in the wall of a structure on the Berkeley Plantation in Virginia. Thanks for inquiring. Melissa

  3. I’m almost through reading “Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Written by Herself” and decided to google the characters to “see” them in real life and ran across your site – thank you for creating this site and for giving me such a visual!

  4. Great! I am reading Jacobs’ autobiography now and am planning on a trip to Edenton also. Thanks for your descriptions!

  5. Amazing just read “Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Written by Herself”. Thanks for a glimpse into her life

  6. I have read the book twice…and have cried both times! I, too, have been inspired by history professors and have added destinations that I must go to before I die to my bucket list…Edenton is now on my list! Thanks!

  7. I live in Washington, DC, but Edenton is my maternal ancestral home. My ggg granparents-Providence and Betty Cox were slaves there, “owned” by John Cox. They survived slavery, and raised 4 known children, one of whom was my gg grandfather, Harry Cox, and my ggg grandmother, his wife, Priscilla. I’m trying to locate a couple of things, which will probably be difficult. I’d like to stand on whatever space of land Harry and Priscilla lived on, on King Street, but I don’t have an actual plat or location for the house. I’d also like to determine if they were buried in the Providence (African-American) Cemetery, or Vine Oak Cemetery. If you have any tips, let me know!

    1. Hello Audrey,

      I am thrilled to hear from you. What a wonderful amount of history you have of your ancestors. I am so happy that you have been able to know so much as many African Americans who were enslaved were unable to leave solid footprints for future generations. I believe if you were to go to, or contact by phone, the Edenton Historical Society they would have a way to locate the exact address of John Cox. I can tell you that King Street is a very short street in relation to most streets within city limits. Have you visited Edenton and have you observed the street? Additionally, many towns have maps of the land and location of homes and businesses for different decades and list just who owned what and where the property lines were drawn. I want you to know that there is a lot of history there in Edenton that might lead you to some amazing information about your ggg grandparents. If you ever want to take a trip there, I would be happy, and thrilled, to meet you there and explore with you. I live in VA Beach and could make the journey easily to Edenton. We could talk to the church there and look through their records to see if we can find where John Cox buried his slaves. The two cemeteries you mentioned were the most common burial spots for enslaved people but what years your ancestors lived would/might make a difference. Let me know how I can help and I will try to find some things out for you in the next week and will contact you via your email. Thank you for stopping by and I will be in touch….You have given me a project and I will give you all the information I can find. Please stay in touch. Melissa

      1. Hello Melissa! I hadn’t gotten back on this website, and here it is a year later! As I was just trolling through (I’m still on the research trail), I came back here by pure happenstance. My goodness! I went down to Edenton last summer. I have relatives in Norfolk, and my cousin was sweet enough to take a Friday off, and drive me down. After all these years, we took a few minutes to drive over to Albania, where John Cox lived and died, and where I believe my ancestors were at the time of his death, as his slaves. I cannot describe to you the feeling I got when I was close to the grounds. I still have so many questions, and I can only come down during the summers. Please contact me again, and maybe we can work something out! Audrey

  8. Hi, i really enjoyed reading your posts! I have been trying to research any family that may have been slaves but have not had any luck, my great grandmother paternally was Martha Harvey (maiden name anthony) . She was able to tell me her parents name but not her grandmother, her parents were Cora Harris and William Whit Anthony. I need help to look in the right place for answers. I live in Tyner, NC about 15 miles from Edenton! Any assistance would be greatly appreciated.

    1. Hi Kristal,

      I am sorry it has been so long in my response but I have been in Chicago doing some research and just saw your post. WOW1 You have great information already. A great place to start is to dig into the newspapers for the town where your ancestry lived. Try to learn who may have enslaved your ancestors. Many times, at the end of slavery, newly freed slaves took the sir names of their masters as they did not have last names of their own while enslaved. Newspapers will have a huge amount of information. Did you read my post about Phibby? That will give you insight as to how you have to dig and piece things together to paint a portrait. You can do this but it will take a very long time unless you are able to dedicate lots of time to it. Phibby took me about 36 hours in total and I am still hunting every chance I get. I hope you find some little tidbit of information that leads you to a history of your family. I may be able to help in the beginning of summer. let me know how far you get between now and then. Oh and look in family Bibles….old ones….someone may have written some names in there that will lead you somewhere.

      1. Thanks I will try newspapers I hope o can find something so far there have been no slaveowners with the surname anthony or harris in chowan county though

  9. Greetings Melissa and my cousin Jean (Audrey),
    I am filled with our ancestors spirit. I look forward to coming to Edenton in the summer to start our ancestral quest. I was there in Edenton, as a child with my grandmother, Virginia Lee Cox. I have so many questions, like was the African American burial ground (Providence) named after my ggg father Providence? I also noticed that the name Sessoms comes up in this area. My grandfather Joseph Henry Sessoms, who was married to my grandmother VIrginia Lee Cox.

    Melissa I give thanx for your energy and I too believe that something amazing is awaiting us. I give so much thanx for my cousin Jean (Audrey) who recorded my grandmother talking bout family. To hear her voice so clear, with her southern tone brought tears to my ears and a feeling inside of me like I’ve never felt before. It felt so wierd, but very peaceful, safe, and sacred.

    Peace, Love, and Light

    1. Kimme,

      Thank you for commenting on my post….I feel so connected to Edenton. I have no ancestral reasons for that connection but I am connected through the spirit of humanness. When I learned of Harriet Jacobs, visiting Edenton was a must for me. You will feel an amazing sense of power when you are there. Look into church records to find your ancestry. I tried to find the records of Jacobs baptism which was held in the church across from the visitors center but they had no record. I want to try to find out who her true love was….the man Norcom would not let her see. I believe him to have been a wood worker in town at the time who actually sculpted many of the porches and posts along Queen and King streets. I believe you can start at the Visitor Center and if you can find out the names of the people who enslaved your ancestors you will be able to dig for their history in the newspapers and church records. I would start there. Anyway….please think to let me know any information you find. Your ancestry may connect to a larger picture and that would be fascinating. Also, the Providence grave yard will be a highly moving experience when you go….please take the time to listen to what the wind tells you….it will be powerful. Good luck and let me know if I can help you further.

  10. Thanks for this post. I just finished reading Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl and am happy to have more detailed information as you have provided. Appreciated. Well done.

  11. I enjoyed reading your experience in Edenton. I recently discovered Harriet Jacobs and her book. I’ve always loved non-fiction and history. After reading your blog, I too want to visit Edenton. Thank you for your photos and what still exists, doesn’t exist during Harriet’s life. I hope to visit there some day and feel the energy of the life in early America.

    1. Thank you so much for your comment. I’m glad you enjoyed this post. Yes, you should visit Edenton. It’s beautiful and just a great day trip. The cemetery there, Old Providence Cemetary, is where Molly, and probably Jacobs’ parents, is buried. There is a nice dedication to Molly for hiding Harriet and risking her own freedom and life. Please take the time to stop there. You can also visit the church across from the historical society where Molly was baptized and the Norcoms are buried. Let me know when you go. I’d love to hear what you discover and how much you enjoy the history there.

  12. Hello:
    I just finished reading “Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl”, after watching the film “Twelve Years a Slave” and then reading the book by Solomon Northup. I will now begin researching the accuracy of “Letters from a Slave Boy: The Story of Joseph Jacobs” (Harriet Ann Jacobs’ son) by Mary E. Lyons before reading it, as I wish to restrict myself to factual first-hand accounts of slavery. Suffering from medical issues, I had not read books for years until viewing the film “12 Years A Slave”, and was so moved that I felt compelled to read Mr. Northup’s account in its entirety. I found it life-changing, and cannot get enough of these insightful, compelling biographical narrations.
    I only wish I were able-bodied enough to retrace Harriet’s steps as you have done. It must be truly inspiring to have the ability to do so. Thank you for sharing your adventures, experiences, and photos. It is a real gift to those of us interested, but not capable of making the journey. You have done a great job of making this reader feel as though I made the journey with you! You have a real gift for “fleshing out” an experience, and conveying your feelings. I do hope that you continue with your obvious gift for the written word.
    Warm Regards,

    1. Hi Lynev,

      Thank you so much for your comment. Your words truly touched my heart. I, too, wish you could walk in Jacobs’ footsteps. There is truly something life altering to walk to the edge of town, only to have your footsteps haulted by water. It literally goes for as far as the eye can see. To know that a person (many persons) were enslaved and bound to that town just because it was surrounded by water I really understood why they didn’t run sooner, or ever. I have another post, Phibby, that is research I completed myself and then wrote about my findings. I think you’ll find it interesting. Let me know. I will be touring some new places in 2015 so sign up to follow me and you’ll receive alerts when I post something new. I look forward to your comments in the future. Melisss

    2. Hi again Lynev,

      I forgot to share two very important things with you as you journey to learn more about Harriet Jacobs. You mentioned that you were going to read a narrative by Jacob’s son Joseph Jacobs. The Joseph you are referring to is actually Harriet’s brother. Harriet’s son was believed lost at sea and little no no information is available for him. Also, when Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl was first published, it was published under a pseudonym Linda Brent. It took more than 100 years for a literature professor, Jean Fagan Yelling to stumble upon the piece and uncover the true identity of the author. Yelling spent more than 20 years of her life researching Harriet’s life and that’s how we know so much. A great book to read is Yellin’s autobiography of Harriet Jacobs as she will fill in so many details for you, including what happened to Jacob’s children. Additionally, Yelling published all of Jacob’s papers (letters, court documents, etc) in a two volume set that will give you more of Harriet’s true voice. As you probably know, narratives from slavery were often edited and published by white abolitionist women, as was Jacobs, in order to gain more support in the fight to abolish slavery. So, if you read the papers by Jacob’s and the biography written by the scholar who brought Harriet from invisibility and into our reality, you will hear her voice and learn more of the unedited truth to Harriet’s remarkable story. I hope this helps you in your endeavor to learn more about these most amazing people in our history. Please contact me if you would like to discuss anything….I would welcome to share thoughts and knowledge with a person who has the same passion as myself: to know those who suffered and overcame unspeakable oppression and left behind their story so we could learn. My personal email is nuttinbuthistory4me@gmail.com and you can write any time. Take care. Melissa

      1. Hello, Melissa:
        I changed phones and all the info on my last phone was accidentally deleted during the transfer, including my bookmarks. I lost track of your website for a few years sadly and was completely unaware that you responded to my post. I have resaved it on this phone now and will start researching Jean Fagan Yellin’s work.
        Thank you so much.

      2. Hi Lynev,

        Oh great! Welcome back. My life took a weird turn for a couple years as well so now we are both back and I look forward to future correspondence.
        Let me know what you think of the Yellin biography.


  13. I was born and raised in this area. I knew that are town was very historic. I didn’t know anything about Harriet Jacobs until I went to the college in Elizabeth City, NC and my Professor was talking about this story. I end up asking the professor could we take a trip my my area so I could show them the places that where in the story. They loved it. I love it to this day. I’m very proud of this area and there is no place like it.

  14. Hi I’ve tried getting information from my only Grandmother that is living. To see where I come from, she only know her mother not her father. Of course I was born and raised in edenton. But I never knew about Ms.Jacobs until this very moment. Thank you, and any tips on where I could start on getting my family history?

    1. Spray,

      Gather as many names and birth dates as you can. Then go to ancestry.com and sign up for a 2 week free trial. Put your name in then add your parents. Then add the names you have. You will get hints. Others are building their own family trees and you can gain lots of great information. Just follow the known information and stay focused. You can learn a lot this way. Also, the historical society there in Edenton is awesome. Someone there might be able to direct you to other sources as well. Good luck and let me know if I can help you. Melissa

  15. After reading Incidents in the life of a slave girl, Uncle Toms cabin, I know why the caged bird sings e. t. c and watching movies like The birth of a new nation, Twelve years a slave e. t. c coupled with the racial discrimination still going on against blacks by you whites, am almost filled with hatred for all of you but am above hatred. I know all of you pretend to be good but deep down,most of you whites are evil and racist as only evil people can do what has been done to black people just because we have melanin. The fact that Donald Trump was elected is enough to show that you are all racists to the core as he won that election because he was against the blacks.

    1. Hi,
      I’m writing today in regards to your comment on my blog about Harriet Jacobs. Let me start by saying, I get why you might think the way in which your comment makes it seem you feel. With that being said, I assure you….not all people who are not black feel the way you expressed.

      Personally, I am disgusted with the people who voted to put that racist man in our White House. I am also a white person who works every day to learn and share what I believe to be the most inspirational and important history that has yet to be told.

      I empathize with those who were enslaved. You may descend from those who were enslaved, or may not. I, however, descend from Quakers who believed and fought tirelessly for the abolishment of slavery. I have studied Black History because I know to get beyond racism as a nation we must become educated. I do not associate with people who express racist ideology or hatred toward other human beings simply because, as you pointed out, they simply have more melatonin.

      I agree we live in a country where some ignorant whites continue to try to oppress people of color. But that’s because they are ignorant. Ignorant to their own fear. Fear that was taught to them by their families. Fear that was taught to them and that is perpetuated through movies and tv.

      Please remember that many white people have fought and died to make this country right. For example, there was only one person who died on that day in Selma when Blacks and whites came together to march for blacks to gain voting rights. That person who died? Viola Luizzo. A white, mother of four, who saw the footage of Bloody Sunday from her home in Michigan and decided, right then, she had to go and March because she believed no person should be denied their voting rights or should be beaten because they want to march to obtain those rights. She left her family and marched for freedom. Once the march ended she used her car to go and pick up those struggling to walk back to Selma. She was spotted by four men in a car, KKK members (one an FBI agent), with a black man in her car – a crime in those days – and she was chased and shot to death while driving. Where her car came to rest there is a monument to her that has had to be replaced several times, and now has a fence around it, all because ignorant whites still shoot at it and deface it. Viola died because she saw no difference between we humans. She died for what she knew was right. She died marching for a cause that she knew had to be won.

      I study and write about Black history because the more we know, the less hate there will be in this world.

      Please don’t be so jaded. Judge each of us white people based on our actions and not on the color of our skin. I don’t judge people of other faiths, ethnicities that way. My blog is here to honor the history that MUST be told because there are so many amazing people who lived that we have yet to know. I hope to introduce the world to many.

      Go back to my blog. Read the entry Phibby: A Mystery I Hope to Solve. That is the work I do. I work to take a name that has no story and I research to bring an enslaved person to life. To give them a story, in history, where they belong. Those who were enslaved built this country. Every one of them deserves a place in our history.

      God bless you and I hope you, like me, can see beyond our color. I truly appreciate your comment. I will wait to hear from you to post it.


  16. Thank you for the page. I homeschool my daughter and we are studying American History (1700- Reconstruction). I stumbled cross ‘Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl’ at a local used bookstore. I thought it would be a good “read-aloud” to my daughter but decided to read it myself first. I couldn’t put it down. I am so inspired by her strength, determination and heroism. Thanks for giving a snapshot of Edenton. I live in California and am not sure I’ll ever get to visit Edenton. Yellin’s book is next on my list. Best Regards!!

    1. You’re welcome. You and folks like you are the reason I blogged and added those pictures. As I read the book I couldn’t imagine just how close in proximity each location was to the other. Thank you for sharing and taking the time to comment.


  17. I have to create a storymap for a school project based on the book, and this has helped me greatly with know where specif areas were. I’m upset my other group members didn’t read the book because they missed out on a great read.

    1. Yes…. I always found myself feeling bad for my fellow students who didn’t read or become passionate about the histories they were asked to read. Keep reading everything suggested….and read manuscripts listed in the notes. Good luck to you.

  18. Hello,
    Thank you for you contribution. Reading your post and the comments people have been making since 2011 just reassures me how relevant Jacobs’ work still is. And be sure of one thing: not only in North America; I just translated her memoirs into Portuguese and will be publishing them by March ’18 here down in Brazil. While researching to write the preface I came across to your post and was at once very glad for the chance of seeing how Edenton looks like nowadays. Your page will be surely mentioned in the book’s references.
    best regards

    1. Hello!
      I’m thankful you found the pictures helpful. The purpose of that blog was specifically for the benefit you found in them. When I lived in CA and read her memoir, I wondered constantly about the location of the events Jacobs wrote about. I graduated in CA in May of 2008 and was in Edenton by January 2009. Thank you for citing my work. I am humbled. Good luck to you in your endeavors. Melissa

  19. Thank you so much for sharing this. I was so moved by her story I’ve just been googling non-stop trying to find out more, and stumbled on your site.

  20. Accidentally landed in Edenton and was overwhelmed by the ghosts of history there, and then with the story of Harriet Jacobs. Skeptical, I was actually pretty impressed with interpretive work of the folks who do the trolley tour. Southern history can be so, so complicated.

    But the evils in our history are clear, and we still live with their legacy (as Heart’s post above makes clear).

    I look forward to getting back. I sure wish there was someplace to put a memorial to this remarkable story: perhaps a bench that looks on that empty space that holds so much… everything.

    Thank you for your work, and sharing your joy in studying history.

  21. Hi, it has been a long time since I was here! I’m still on the research trail. A couple of years ago I actually went to the grounds of Albania, the house where John Cox lived, and where he probably held my ancestors in slavery. I didn’t go up to the house, so as not to be accused of trespassing. Someone who was housesitting came out and I told her why I was there. She put me in touch with the owners but they didn’t know anything about the house history. But in the meantime, I wrote a book titled “Trouble So Hard: African-American Labor and Life in Edenton Town, 1870-1940” published through Heritage Books. I hope you and others will get it!

    1. Good morning, Melissa & Audrey, So sorry for not checking emails over the weekend & are hoping you, Audrey, are still in town. A few years ago, we received a letter from a teacher in the DC area who had been to the house while we were away working on the road. We did reply explaining that our ownership didn’t commence Until 1939 so although we know the dates of who owned the property when, we don’t know much about the people themselves. Her’s was a relation from Cox’s “tenure”. We’ve not been very well and have lost track of our copies of that earlier correspondence so are wondering if the are 2 individuals working on their family’s histories or if this is another opportunity to contact that earlier “researcher”
      Also, Melissa, thought you might find it helpful for some of your other blogging correspondents to know that soon after we retired, we were allowed to copy all the old St. Paul’s baptismal records 1828 & forward. These themselves, were a transcription done by an earlier Episcopal priest because the actual original pages were falling apart. what we found interesting & most helpful was that most farm/plantation owners seemed to honor the baptismal ceremony to the extent that the lists included all members of their households who were becoming members of the church and, in some cases included their relationships to one another. This was done prior to our illnesses & so I do not have any recollection of the Cox name or that of Albania but many others are listed. We’ve always hoped to find a way to pass this along to current researchers & would be most happy of. Any suggestions on how to “spread the word”

      Lastly, has anyone ever mentioned to you the “Hayes Papers Collection” which is housed in the Wilson Library at UNC Chapel Hill?

      We were doing research on some of the 51 ladies who sighed The Edenton Proclimation supporting their husbands (the tea party document). And found most interesting correspondance between Hayes & the Duckenfield plantation just across the river in Bertie. Names aren’t always lost to history – just hiding under a searingly unrelated topic and/or bit of correspondance.

      As we get better and start to return to our various researches, keep hoping we’ll hear of some on-line “clearing house” where we could send what we come across

      Looking forward to any “thoughts”

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