Stories and representations of suffering are frequently central to attempts to arouse our emotions and initiate political action. Yet, the evocation of emotion and, in particular, empathy, remains politically ambivalent. It does not necessarily lead to the acknowledgement of political responsibility or to actions to address the historically-constituted roots of contemporary structural injustices. Moving beyond the legal, moral, and institutional boundaries of political responsibility, this article argues for greater recognition of its affective dimensions. In particular, it differentiates between a sentimental politics and testimonial empathy to better understand the affective dynamics of political responsibility. While the former finds close company with pity and a lack of acknowledged political responsibility, the latter offers an ethical–political orientation towards radical reflexivity and social transformation, situating experiences of injustice within wider networks of power, privilege, and agency. Drawing on the work of feminist, cultural, and social theorists, the article offers a critical conceptualisation of testimonial empathy and its limits. The article illustrates the insights offered by re-thinking political responsibility in terms of testimonial empathy through a close reading of a historical account of structural injustice – slavery in the United States – as written in Harriet A. Jacobs’ 1861 slave narrative.