There have been over a hundred published fugitive slave narratives written during the 19th century depicting the harsh lifestyles African American slaves had to endure before they were freed by the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863. These works of literature had been publicized by abolitionists of those times to raise the awareness of the injustice imposed by the colonial government. Slaves were deprived of the freedoms of education, religion, citizenship, and even their pursuit of happiness. Through their suffering, they composed songs, poetry, and nonfiction prose, which have been collectively categorized as what we now call African American literature. They have been thoroughly studied to understand the vernacular and historical details of that era. The slave narratives, though, often in forms of autobiographies, told stories with the specific purpose to inform and captivate their readers with their entire personal journeys. Moreover, because their stories differed in numerous ways in terms of content, they elicited different emotions of the readers. To further explore, one must analyze the drastically differing characteristics of Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass written by himself and Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, which was written by Harriet Jacobs. Douglass narrative consistently builds his reputation as an inspirational, resolute hero, while Harriet Jacobs pleads for understanding and sympathy from her readers throughout her story. The individual perspectives they take specifically on the subject of sexual abuse, education, and their life objectives leave the readers contrasting impressions about their struggles.
On the subject of sexual harassment and rape, Douglass describes his witnessing of Aunt Hesters abuse as his entrance to hell, while Harriet Jacobs conveys it as the unfortunate loss of a poor girl's innocence. Though similar in the nature of the crime, Douglass introduces the reader to the beginning stage of his rage and fight against the injustice.