To My Old Master - August 7, 1865 - Jourdon Anderson


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Phenomenal letter must read to the very end...

Dayton, Ohio,

"August 7, 1865

To My Old Master, Colonel P.H. Anderson, Big Spring, Tennessee

Sir: I got your letter, and was glad to find that you had not forgotten Jourdon, and that you wanted me to come back and live with you again, promising to do better for me than anybody else can. I have often felt uneasy about you. I thought the Yankees would have hung you long before this, for harboring Rebs they found at your house. I suppose they never heard about your going to Colonel Martin's to kill the Union soldier that was left by his company in their stable. Although you shot at me twice before I left you, I did not want to hear of your being hurt, and am glad you are still living. It would do me good to go back to the dear old home again, and see Miss Mary and Miss Martha and Allen, Esther, Green, and Lee. Give my love to them all, and tell them I hope we will meet in the better world, if not in this. I would have gone back to see you all when I was working in the Nashville Hospital, but one of the neighbors told me that Henry intended to shoot me if he ever got a chance.

I want to know particularly what the good chance is you propose to give me. I am doing tolerably well here. I get twenty-five dollars a month, with victuals and clothing; have a comfortable home for Mandy,—the folks call her Mrs. Anderson,—and the children—Milly, Jane, and Grundy—go to school and are learning well. The teacher says Grundy has a head for a preacher. They go to Sunday school, and Mandy and me attend church regularly. We are kindly treated. Sometimes we overhear others saying, "Them colored people were slaves" down in Tennessee. The children feel hurt when they hear such remarks; but I tell them it was no disgrace in Tennessee to belong to Colonel Anderson. Many darkeys would have been proud, as I used to be, to call you master. Now if you will write and say what wages you will give me, I will be better able to decide whether it would be to my advantage to move back again.

As to my freedom, which you say I can have, there is nothing to be gained on that score, as I got my free papers in 1864 from the Provost-Marshal-General of the Department of Nashville. Mandy says she would be afraid to go back without some proof that you were disposed to treat us justly and kindly; and we have concluded to test your sincerity by asking you to send us our wages for the time we served you. This will make us forget and forgive old scores, and rely on your justice and friendship in the future. I served you faithfully for thirty-two years, and Mandy twenty years. At twenty-five dollars a month for me, and two dollars a week for Mandy, our earnings would amount to eleven thousand six hundred and eighty dollars. Add to this the interest for the time our wages have been kept back, and deduct what you paid for our clothing, and three doctor's visits to me, and pulling a tooth for Mandy, and the balance will show what we are in justice entitled to. Please send the money by Adams's Express, in care of V. Winters, Esq., Dayton, Ohio. If you fail to pay us for faithful labors in the past, we can have little faith in your promises in the future. We trust the good Maker has opened your eyes to the wrongs which you and your fathers have done to me and my fathers, in making us toil for you for generations without recompense. Here I draw my wages every Saturday night; but in Tennessee there was never any pay-day for the negroes any more than for the horses and cows. Surely there will be a day of reckoning for those who defraud the laborer of his hire.

In answering this letter, please state if there would be any safety for my Milly and Jane, who are now grown up, and both good-looking girls. You know how it was with poor Matilda and Catherine. I would rather stay here and starve—and die, if it come to that—than have my girls brought to shame by the violence and wickedness of their young masters. You will also please state if there has been any schools opened for the colored children in your neighborhood. The great desire of my life now is to give my children an education, and have them form virtuous habits.

Say howdy to George Carter, and thank him for taking the pistol from you when you were shooting at me.

From your old servant,

Jourdon Anderson."

http://www.lettersofnote.com/2012/01/to-my-old-master.html

Remarkable man...

As the grandson of legal immigrants who emigrated to this country in 1903, I was never a part, nor were they, in racism.

It was not permitted at our table, nor anywhere we walked.

A...

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Thanks Adam. A good read.

Same here, Grandfather (fathers side) born in Sweden. Mom's side from England and Germany, immigrated late 1880's to NY & Pennsylvania, then on to Ohio. I grew up early on in Dayton (until 9yo), perhaps I went to school with one of Mr. Anderson's descendants...

"...have them form virtuous habits." This jumps out. Good man.

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As the grandson of legal immigrants who emigrated to this country in 1903, I was never a part, nor were they, in racism.

It was not permitted at our table, nor anywhere we walked.

A...

Un momento, Jose. Un momento. Since there was racism in this country in 1903--and there still is today (college students agree)--we are all tainted one way or another by one reasoning or another.

--Brant

I'm pretty hard to argue with for I'm not for truth--nope, just the fun

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There's a bit more info on it here:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2174410/Pictured-The-freed-slave-moving-letter-old-master-asked-work-farm.html

The line "Say howdy to George Carter, and thank him for taking the pistol from you when you were shooting at me" really can't be taken at face value, since he was freed by Union troops. If his master took a shot at him (one pictures Jourdan fleeing in terror on foot) the master would have been killed, don't you think?

This is propaganda laced with humor. And great as such.

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As the grandson of legal immigrants who emigrated to this country in 1903, I was never a part, nor were they, in racism.

It was not permitted at our table, nor anywhere we walked.

A...

Un momento, Jose. Un momento. Since there was racism in this country in 1903--and there still is today (college students agree)--we are all tainted one way or another by one reasoning or another.

--Brant

I'm pretty hard to argue with for I'm not for truth--nope, just the fun

Apply your same personal rule on addiction which I can empathize with and then apply it to racism, I did and there is zero racism in me.

A...

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There's a bit more info on it here:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2174410/Pictured-The-freed-slave-moving-letter-old-master-asked-work-farm.html

The line "Say howdy to George Carter, and thank him for taking the pistol from you when you were shooting at me" really can't be taken at face value, since he was freed by Union troops. If his master took a shot at him (one pictures Jourdan fleeing in terror on foot) the master would have been killed, don't you think?

This is propaganda laced with humor. And great as such.

Agreed, unless he [the "master"] was drunk. However, I see he was quite apt with words and I was chuckling at certain points.

One of the links leads to the census of 1880, 1900 and 1920...amazing detail...

This one: http://kottke.org/12/02/what-happened-to-the-former-slave-that-wrote-his-old-master

A...

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As the grandson of legal immigrants who emigrated to this country in 1903, I was never a part, nor were they, in racism.

It was not permitted at our table, nor anywhere we walked.

A...

Un momento, Jose. Un momento. Since there was racism in this country in 1903--and there still is today (college students agree)--we are all tainted one way or another by one reasoning or another.

--Brant

I'm pretty hard to argue with for I'm not for truth--nope, just the fun

Apply your same personal rule on addiction which I can empathize with and then apply it to racism, I did and there is zero racism in me.

A...

I hope you note the humor in the wrote, like "I'm not for truth . . . ." Also, if the right reasoning don't get you the left wrong one will.

--Brant

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As the grandson of legal immigrants who emigrated to this country in 1903, I was never a part, nor were they, in racism.

It was not permitted at our table, nor anywhere we walked.

A...

Un momento, Jose. Un momento. Since there was racism in this country in 1903--and there still is today (college students agree)--we are all tainted one way or another by one reasoning or another.

--Brant

I'm pretty hard to argue with for I'm not for truth--nope, just the fun

Apply your same personal rule on addiction which I can empathize with and then apply it to racism, I did and there is zero racism in me.

A...

I hope you note the humor in the wrote, like "I'm not for truth . . . ." Also, if the right reasoning don't get you the left wrong one will.

--Brant

Of course I did and sometimes I am not sure what kind of softball to toss you so you can hit to all fields...

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Remarkable articulation from a slave for whom things like readin and writin skills werent ordinarily a given. Considering he was a slave he was very generous in his remarks.

America has treated people it regarded as inferior - abysmally, criminally. Leading up to the civil war Ole Hickory reneged on the Cherokees after John Marshalls SC ruled in their favor 6-1 saying "Marshall may have had his ruling but lets see him try to enforce it." He sent the military in resettling 12,000 in Oklahoma after being taken from their prime farming lands in Georgia.

An American Betrayal:Cherokee Patriots and the Trail of Tears by Daniel Blake Smith.

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Remarkable articulation from a slave for whom things like readin and writin skills werent ordinarily a given.

It was "dictated" to someone else, an abolitionist amanuensis. And published in newspapers. You can't take it at face value. I bet one of the motivations for writing it was to warn former slaves off from going back to their former masters as "employees".
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"Remarkable" as in highly doubtful that the subject is the author. I certainly don't take it at face value, it's an amusing take that hits all the notes. He was 30 years a slave, perhaps he should be considered a saint in his treatment towards his "benefactor". It just doesn't ring true for me.

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