Book Club words surrounded by books

Book Club words surrounded by books ()

In honor of Juneteenth, the UMGC Europe Book Club, open to everyone, will host its next meeting on June 18 at 12 p.m. CET via Zoom, featuring Harriet Jacobs’ work, “Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl” (available at no-cost online via Google Books here).

Juneteenth, celebrated each year on June 19th, commemorates the day in 1865 when enslaved African Americans in Galveston, Texas, were informed of their freedom, more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was issued. The day evolved into a celebration of African American culture, heritage, and ongoing struggles for equality, officially recognized as a federal holiday in 2021. Harriet Jacobs’ story is the perfect selection for Juneteenth as she was not only a former enslaved person, but also an abolitionist whose writings significantly contributed to the fight for freedom.

The slave narrative is a distinctly American literary genre that emerged from the experiences of enslaved African Americans, offering firsthand accounts of the brutal realities of slavery. Published in 1861, Jacobs’ autobiography played a crucial role in building Northern support for emancipation during the Civil War. Slave narratives like Jacobs’ were instrumental in the abolitionist movement, providing humanizing testimonials that countered pro-slavery propaganda. These narratives not only solidified our historical record but also laid the groundwork for African American literature, influencing subsequent generations of writers depicting issues of race, identity and social justice.

Harriet Jacobs’ “Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl” is the only known slave narrative written by an African American woman. It uniquely highlights the sexual violence faced by enslaved women, making it a cornerstone of intersectional feminist literature. Jacobs’ powerful slave narrative offers a compelling account of her life as an enslaved woman and her journey to freedom, detailing her early years and, later, the horrific abuse she endured. To escape the relentless sexual violence of her enslaver, Jacobs hid in a tiny crawl space in her grandmother’s attic for seven years before finally escaping to the North. Her narrative not only exposes the inhumanity of slavery but also highlights the specific traumas faced by enslaved women, thus offering a critical intersectional perspective on race and gender.

Jacobs’ contributions, however, did not end with her own freedom. She dedicated her life to relief work among Black Civil War refugees, educating newly freed Americans, and advocating for women’s rights. As we come together to discuss “Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl,” we not only honor Harriet Jacobs’ courage and resilience but also reflect on the broader significance of Juneteenth. Her story encourages us to consider the ongoing struggles for racial and gender equality and the importance of intersectionality in our understanding of history and social justice.

Flyer reads “ UMGC Europe Book Club  presents in honor of Juneteenth 2024, ‘Incidents of a Slave Girl’ [by] Harriet Tubman | All are welcome! Join us via Zoom on 18 June 2024 from 12 p.m. CET” with a QR code

Book Club Juneteenth Flyer (Jessica S. Stock PhD)

Everyone is welcome to join the UMGC Europe Book Club, no need to be a student or faculty member! Since July 2020, we have been building a community that values diversity, empathy, and literary exploration. Our mission is simple: to read literature, create a reliable and safe community of readers, and, most importantly, provide a space where resilience and empathy thrive. Whether you’re an avid reader or just looking to connect with fellow book enthusiasts, our club offers inclusive and meaningful discussions.

For more information, visit our Facebook page or email for questions on membership or how UMGC Europe Book Club can facilitate other community reading events. Celebrate Juneteenth with us by delving into the life and legacy of Harriet Jacobs and join us in this enriching literary journey!

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Tamala Malerk is a writer and editor with Stars and Stripes Europe. She has been with SSE since April 2022 writing articles all about travel, lifestyle, community news, military life and more. In May 2022, she earned her Ph.D. in History and promises it is much more relevant to this job than one might think.

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