Site of Harriet Jacobs’ Charter Street Home

Entrance to a park area with a stone way on either side of the entrance.
Jacob's Charter Street home once stood at this approximate location. Today, it is a park.

NPS Photo/Woods

Quick Facts
87 Charter Street
Site of Harriet Jacobs' Boston Home
Private Residence

Freedom seeker and author of Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Harriet Jacobs lived at 87 Charter Street from 1844-1849. Escaping slavery in 1842 from North Carolina, Jacobs fled to New York. Over the next couple of years, Jacobs fled to Boston several times when she feared capture in New York. During these trips, she stayed with her brother John, also a freedom seeker. John Jacobs settled in Boston years earlier and joined the abolitionist community of the city.1 On one of these trips, Harriet Jacobs left her son Benjamin in the care of John to keep him safe.2

Jacobs moved to Boston with her daughter, Louisa, when she received word that her enslaver had once again traveled to New York in search of her. Jacobs recalled her relief upon moving to Boston,

The day after my arrival was one of the happiest of my life. I felt as if I was beyond the reach of the bloodhounds; and, for the first time during many years, I had both my children together with me. They greatly enjoyed their reunion, and laughed and chatted merrily. I watched them with a swelling heart. Their every motion delighted me.3

City directories document her living at 87 Charter Street and working as a dressmaker.4

Jacobs temporarily left Boston for England in 1845. Upon her return, she discovered her son had left for a whaling voyage. Previously, Benjamin had worked as an apprentice, but he faced racist "insults and abuse" from the other apprentices.5 This experience encouraged him to leave Boston. After Louisa left for boarding school, Jacobs decided to move to Rochester, New York with her brother John.6

While Jacobs did not live in Boston again, she received assistance from Massachusetts abolitionist Lydia Maria Child to publish her book in Boston.


  1. The Liberator documents his various speaking engagements, including: "John S. Jacobs," The Liberator (Boston, Massachusetts), May 19, 1848; "Convention at Blackstone," The Liberator, August 4, 1848.
  2. Harriet Ann Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, edited by L. Maria Child (Boston: 1860-1861), 262.
  3. Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, 274.
  4. "The Boston Directory," (Boston: Sampson & Murdock Company, 1849-1850), HathiTrust, accessed November, 2020,; Elizabeth Della Zazzera, "Incidents in the Life of Harriet Jacobs: A virtual tour of Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl," April 15, 2019, accessed November, 2020,
  5. Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, 279; Zazzera, "Incidents in the Life of Harriet Jacobs."
  6. Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, 282-84; Zazzera, "Incidents in the Life of Harriet Jacobs."

Boston African American National Historic Site

Last updated: January 8, 2023