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"To My Old Master"

 
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CLCNY20 View Drop Down
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    Posted: Jan 31 2013 at 11:43pm
 
n August of 1865, a Colonel P.H. Anderson of Big Spring, Tennessee, wrote to his former slave, Jourdon Anderson, and requested that he come back to work on his farm. Jourdon — who, since being emancipated, had moved to Ohio, found paid work, and was now supporting his family — responded spectacularly by way of the letter seen below (a letter which, according to newspapers at the time, he dictated).
Head over to Kottke for a brief but lovely little update about the later years of Jourdon and family.
(Source: The Freedmen’s Book; Image: A group of escaped slaves in Virginia in 1862, courtesy of the Library of Congress.)
 
_____________________________
 

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.

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jonesable View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote jonesable Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Jan 31 2013 at 11:45pm
Believe I read this in high school then again in college.
We also got to see and read the auction bills and other finds from newly freed slaves.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote blaquefoxx Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Jan 31 2013 at 11:54pm
I remember reading this in one of my English courses over the summer
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote niecy Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Jan 31 2013 at 11:56pm
I think I remember someone posting this either on here in one of the black history threads or somewhere.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote newdiva1 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Feb 01 2013 at 12:02am
not for nuthin' but I wonder what ol massa had to say to that.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote CLCNY20 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Feb 01 2013 at 12:22am
I wondered too, Newdiva
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (3) Thanks(3)   Quote nicks_hotmama06 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Feb 01 2013 at 3:22am
The classy a$$ handing........it warmed my heart. The ending.......just, wow.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Naturalchick30 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Feb 01 2013 at 4:32am
Smh
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (4) Thanks(4)   Quote Midna Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Feb 01 2013 at 5:37am
SONNED~



Edited by Midna - Feb 01 2013 at 5:41am
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (4) Thanks(4)   Quote ThoughtCouture Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Feb 01 2013 at 8:31am
Originally posted by CLCNY20 CLCNY20 wrote:

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