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As the narrative opens, Linda Brent recounts the "unusually fortunate circumstances" of her early childhood before she realized she was a slave. Linda's father is a carpenter who — because of his extraordinary skills — is granted many of the privileges of a free man. The chapter introduces Linda's mother, her brother William, and her Uncle Benjamin, who is sold at age ten. Linda also introduces her maternal grandmother (referred to as Aunt Martha by the white community), a strong-willed, resourceful woman who establishes a bakery to earn money to buy her children's freedom. She manages to earn $300, which she loans to her mistress, who never repays her.
When Linda is six years old, her mother dies. When she is 12, her mistress dies, and Linda is sold to the five-year-old daughter of her mistress' sister.