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Excerpt: "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."

A group of escaped slaves in Virginia in 1862. (photo: The Library of Congress)
A group of escaped slaves in Virginia in 1862. (photo: The Library of Congress)

A Letter From a Former Slave

By Letters of Note

01 February 12


n August of 1865, a Colonel P.H. Anderson of Big Spring, Tennessee, wrote to his former slave, Jourdan Anderson, and requested that he come back to work on his farm. Jourdan - 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).

Rather than quote the numerous highlights in this letter, I'll simply leave you to enjoy it. Do make sure you read to the 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. your social media marketing partner


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+162 # Kayjay 2012-02-01 20:10
I'm glad Jourdon told the old man to pay up or buzz off. And yet it seems this story is merely an echo from the past. I mean just plug in today's American workers in Jourdon's shoes and switch the old man for any current corporate rat looking to make amends. I guess now that outsourcing overseas in no longer in vogue, the corp. creeps will make nicey nice here in their constant search for cheap labor. Technology advances, but some things never change.
+83 # Willman 2012-02-01 21:15
Actually 1865 was not that long ago. The slave holder attitude is very prevalent to this day.
The shackles are different though.Enforced by "contracts" and sheriffs, judges, corporations etc.
+64 # 2012-02-02 09:06
And pepper spray
+30 # Billy Bob 2012-02-02 15:56
My great grandfather was born in 1840. Not my great-great-gre at grandfather, but my mom's dad's dad.

Yeah, we have long generations in my family, but the point is that it REALLY ISN'T LONG AGO AT ALL.

In fact, actions as severe as slavery and the Civil War that ended it, have a ripple affect of reactions that will continue to last for at least several more decades.

I'm a product of how I was raised. So was my mom. So was her dad. Is it any wonder that living people still carry the scars of slavery? Is it any wonder that many in the South still think the North was in the wrong and that slavery "wasn't as bad as it's portrayed in the media"?

This is probably the single biggest problem our country has ever dealt with. It STILL informs our discussions of things like Welfare, and unemployment insurance.
+8 # RMDC 2012-02-05 07:50
Willman says "the shackles are different."

This is very profound. Pre-1965, the ruling elites of the US shackled people's bodies and forced them to work and accept no pay. But they did not know how to shackle someone's mind. So Jourdan may have been in chains but he was able to think very clearly.

Today, the ruling elites don't shackle people's bodies but their minds. They deploy massive mind control campaigns in PR, false fear campagins (i.e., Iran, Iraq, terrorism), commodity fetishism, and non-stop propaganda. Now people accept low wages and no social wage and they do not understand. They cannot think clearly about economics.

Our slavery may not be as literally bad as what Jourdain experiences, but it is slavery nonetheless.
+43 # Kasandra 2012-02-02 00:05
This letter describes a deep reflection of a man and his family who, by leaving "The Massa", have created some dignity and honor for themselves. That letter certainly reflects his personal growth, and how out of politeness, he wrote a gracious and wise letter. I doubt very much that he returned to enslave himself to someone who threatened him with a gun! The "Master/Slave" syndrome on this planet continues, even tho in different forms and expressions. Although as we grow in populations, there seems to be a trend to grow in transformations .
+11 # 2012-02-03 00:49
Hegel, historical philosopher wrote one of the greatest expositions on the "Master/Slave" syndrome in Western Philosophy. His thesis is that the Master is enslaved by the slave(s)
he enlaves and may be more dependent on the slave than the slave is dependent on him. This letter brings credence to his theory,
+47 # angelfish 2012-02-02 00:16
Isn't it strange how, the more thing change, the more they stay the same?!
+40 # dawn99 2012-02-02 00:27
can't really type
UTTERLY flabbergasted at the calm rape and shooting that was tolerated, MORE THAN tolerated, and
the sheer bravery to demand WELL-earned wages. The delicate thinking-one's- way-through-fea r - to craft a whole new way of living every day after decades of slaveslaveslavi ng!!!!!!!!!!!
+51 # klondikekitty 2012-02-02 00:36
I cannot imagine the audacity of that former slave owner in thinking he could just write his former slave a letter asking him to come back and he would do it. Even plantation owners who treated their slaves well, such as this man apparently did, could not ACTUALLY expect that to happen. My heart aches for all the slaves who were forced to work long, hot hours, often 7 days a week, and subjected to whatever their masters decided to do to them, which included raping the women whenever they felt the urge to do so. They were, after all, their property, the same as their livestock and their plantations, and no one would dare to intervene lest he be beaten or thrown into some rat-infested building without food or water for days on end. Their treatment, as well as the injustices inflicted upon the native Americans by the white settlers who invaded their land, often make me ashamed to be a white person in America. And now the new minority to be tormented, ridiculed and used as cheap laborers doing exhausting farm work throughout the country are the Hispanics and the Mexicans. Apparently, we never learned from those mistakes because no one ever made us pay for them. I say, be careful what you do, white mankind, it may come back to haunt you someday.
+11 # CandH 2012-02-02 12:59
The US (and allies) are still, to this day, doing all that is listed in this letter from 1865. Some of it actually here, with the farmworkers as you mention, but also wherever US globalization efforts have roamed (think Asia, for one.) There was a segment in the documentary about Jack Abramoff and his ties to these kinds of practices ("Casino Jack and the US of Money.")

"The likelihood that a smartphone was not touched by a slave is pretty low."
+8 # X Dane 2012-02-03 16:35
klondikekitty, it very well may, when NON WHITE people become the majority. They will be, not so long from now.

That is what has the T bag people sream, that they want "their" country back. They can forget that. It is not going to happen, for most non white people have larger families, so we can not be nostalgic, and thinhk the clock can be turned back.
What we NEED to do, is make sure that ALL our young get educated, and work together to lift up THE WHOLE country, if we are going to have a chance to move forward in a world that is moving fast, and could sure leave us eat their dust.
+39 # X Dane 2012-02-02 01:24
The Southerners treated their slaves like animals, wit NO rights and no respect. Jourdan is certainly no fool.
He has no intention of going back without getting the pay he and his wife is owed.
He is making a good life for his wife and family and knows his own worth.
I like his parting salvo: Say Howdy to Carter, and thank him for taking the pistol from you, when you were shootin at me.
He is very politely telling the colonel, that he doesn't trust him at all. Great.
+33 # grouchy 2012-02-02 03:20
It would be so great to see what "Master's" reply was to this wonderful letter!
+41 # Ralph Averill 2012-02-02 03:28
Diplomacy is the art of telling someone to go to hell in such a way that they are looking forward to the trip. This Jourdan fellow could have been an ambassador.
I doubt his circumstances in Ohio were as good as he claimed to his former owner. Twenty bucks a month was a damn good wage for anyone in 1865, and racism and Jim Crow were certainly not just a southern phenomenon. But maybe it was true. The man was certainly smart enough.
+29 # unitedwestand 2012-02-02 04:55
What a catharsis this letter must have been for Jourdon Anderson, of course he would never forget his "old master" how could he, he carried the same last name.

I love this letter, as it says it all. I can feel with every word the seething disdain for what the slave had experienced.
+8 # JJS 2012-02-02 18:58
Quoting unitedwestand:
he carried the same last name. ....

With the rape of the women held under slavery in the master's household/plant ation it may well be that Jourdon carried the old master's GENES, as well.
-64 # MD426 2012-02-02 07:03
I find this letter highly implausible. Even with an intermediary to write the letter, would an ex-slave during this period be so articulate and so sarcastic? The concepts, such as recompense, are very modern and the vernacular mixed. I'm surprised that RSN is publishing it here with no caveat as to it's authenticity.
+41 # historywriter 2012-02-02 10:03
Implausible? Your response is just like that of the people who greeted "Incidents in the Life of a Slave Woman," by Harriet Jacobs--written by Jacobs and verified and edited by others living at that time. Or try some of the other slave narratives from this period. You don't think they would no how to be sarcastic, not to mention articulate? Sarcasm was one of their important weapons. Many of the slave songs and hymns were if not exactly sarcastic hidden commentaries on the life of the slave, which whites and slaveowners were too obtuse to understand.
In fact, some slaves learned to read, despite the legal prohibition about doing so, and could write and many with some elegance. (A friend of mine says her great-great grandmother was a house slave and learned to read, which helps account for the high degree of education in subsequent generations of her family.)
As for the slaveowner's "audacity, this reminds me of a theme in Jacobs' book where her former master did try to get Harriet back by all kinds of means.
Try reading some of the slave narratives and the treatment--rape and way beyond--that slaves endured, or did not endure and died. Try reading "Beloved" by Toni Morrison, an incredible book in all ways.
PBS starts airing a special, "Slavery by another name," and other programs on black slavery and subsequent means of subjugation in our country.
Pay attention. This issue with blacks is far from over.
+27 # Clio 2012-02-02 10:16
At least we know that there was a Jourdan Anderson in Dayton, Ohio when this letter was written and a Patrick H. Anderson, former slaveowner, in Wilson county, Tennessee. Mr. Anderson, in Ohio, had a wife and children whose names match those in the letter as did the Mr. Anderson in Tennessee. This is according to census records including the 1850 and 1860 Slave Schedules.
+21 # historywriter 2012-02-02 12:22
If you'd look up the Jacob's book you'd find it heavily documented and footnotes, with information from censuses, newspaper accounts, and other available documents.
Interesting how much skepticism there is about literate and intelligent slaves.
Nothing written here approaches the horrendous conditions that existed. Have you ever seen photographs of a slave's back that has been repeatedly whipped with a horsewhip? Those scars are deep and never go away. Neither do the invisible scars, and worse, they get passed down from one generation to another. Which is an underlying reason for some of our racial problems today. Slavery is only a few generations from ours.
+8 # tedcloak 2012-02-02 11:09
Click on the underlined words "newspapers of the time" in the article.
+17 # markhalfmoon 2012-02-02 12:00
Is your imagination so limited that you cannot envision a single individual, living in 1865 America - who happened to be one of the 5 million or more persons who had been slaves - that had learned to write during the course of their life?

Can you imagine at least one person out of that 5 million to be articulate? Don't you think you'd be rather sarcastic if you had spent 32 years as an unpaid laborer and your former "employer," who had tried to shoot you, was asking you to return to your old job without an offer of any kind of salary and benefit package?

And where did you study history, that teaches that the idea of being paid for one's work had not yet come into vogue in the mid 19th century?
+27 # markhalfmoon 2012-02-02 12:01
The ex-slave, Frederick Douglas was a great orator, writer and statesman. After escaping from slavery, he became a leader of the abolitionist movement, famous for his dazzling oratory and incisive antislavery writing. He stood as a living counter-example to slaveholders' arguments that slaves did not have the intellectual capacity to function as independent American citizens. Many Northerners also found it hard to believe that such a great orator had been a slave.

He wrote several autobiographies , eloquently describing his experiences in slavery in his 1845 autobiography, "Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave."

You have a underdeveloped education of slavery, US history, and life in the 19th century. I suggest you get a library card.
+16 # CandH 2012-02-02 13:03
Preferably before the libraries are privatized in this country...
+3 # HJ7 2012-02-03 18:27
You don't need a library card if you have an Internet connection. Millions of free books out there just waiting to be read.
+7 # X Dane 2012-02-02 23:57
Markhalfmoon, there certainly were slaves, that were somewhat educated. Some by the young daughters of the owners, who thought it was fun to teach a house slave, although it was risky, since teaching a slave to read was forbidden.

Other slaves, who could read would secretly teach a few friends. There is
probably statistic about it somewhere.

It is still a tactic of people in power to withold knowledge from the poor.
We have not progressed much.
+5 # HJ7 2012-02-03 18:26
Yes I still remember reading Up From Slavery by Booker T Washington when I was a kid. Had there been an Internet back then the eloquence of many more Negroes would have been obvious.
+6 # Joan Manning 2012-02-03 21:38
My observation has been that brains and talent don't care what kind of body they walk around in.
+1 # RMDC 2012-02-05 07:55
MD426 -- you would really be surprised to see the extent of writings by slaves. Way back in the 80s, Henry Louis Gates of Cornell started a project to collect and publish all writings by American slaves. The collection is huge and much of the work is as sophisticated as anything written by whites at the same time period. The charge is always made that it must have been written by a white, but extensive reserch authenticates the work. Try reading Harriet Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl.

I think it is authentic.
+46 # Art947 2012-02-02 07:25
Now, the individuals who emulate the Colonel and desire to repeat these injustices go by the names of Scott Walker, John Kasich, Jan Brewer, and a host of other repugnicans. When we, as Americans, finally put an end to these vile, vicious people?
+33 # walt 2012-02-02 07:27
A touching document that shows the horrible struggle of an oppressed people in America.

Why now after all these years are people still fighting for rights that should be guaranteed by the constitution? What's wrong with us? I think I know the an$wer!
+21 # MidwestTom 2012-02-02 07:36
Visible slavery was terrible. Today we have invisible slavery in this country. We 99% are enslaved by the 1%, and FEMA has already built concentration camps where we will be sent if we protest too loudly. Maybe their plan is to send another 10,000 or so to their deaths in a war with Iran; a country that offers zero threat to this country. If we protest to loudly our Masters will put us in camps. Be careful.
+11 # pernsey 2012-02-02 10:29
Where are these Fema camps MidwestTom?
+3 # historywriter 2012-02-02 12:25
Gosh I keep looking for these concentration camps. We've been hearing about them for years, but no one has ever seen them.
+1 # Educator 2012-02-03 20:51
I hear they're in Louisiana. Around New Orleans.
+17 # markhalfmoon 2012-02-02 12:35
Interesting how some are so much in denial about African American slavery and seem so reluctant to talk about it, they avoid addressing the subject like the plague. 

Even when the topic is specifically and directly about the slavery of black people in the US, ways are always found to deflect, digress, or otherwise steer the discussion somewhere else.

Before we get into the invisible pretend kind of slavery, can we first finish talking about the real visible one that has wreaked havoc in 99% of black Americans' lives for the past few centuries? Can we put a little focus on the concentration camps that hold more than one million young black men who aren't even guilty of protest, loudly or otherwise?

There are plenty of places and opportunities to talk about "the 1%," FEMA, and war with Iran. Let's not go out of our way to avoid the subject at hand.
+10 # Billy Bob 2012-02-02 21:18
Thank you for that response. I was thinking the same thing but couldn't have articulated it. You're right about white sensitivity to the subject. Some people really want to "white" wash the historical past. It wouldn't be so bad if the past really was just that, the past. But, it isn't. We didn't get where we are in this country by chance. We have a history, and denying the ugly truths of it is dishonest.
+4 # 2012-02-03 00:58
Great comments, Billy Bob. You have had mispercceptions about me and I have had misperceptions about you. I feel like i know you lot better now now that you have shared some of your history.
+8 # Billy Bob 2012-02-03 10:35
Thanks for that comment. We're passionate people. Sometimes my wife or I will get angry about something. The routine goes something like this:

"Are you angry at me?"
"No. Why do you think that?"
"You're acting pretty angry."
"I AM angry. But, I'm not angry at you. I'm just angry NEAR YOU."

Sometimes in a brawl (politics is a form of brawl), there are elbows flying everywhere.

Sometimes I question the motives of people I disagree with. Sometimes we don't have a hidden agenda. Sometimes we really do have nuanced positions that agree on the big picture, even if we agree sharply on some of the details. The problem is that there really are right-wing trolls trolling this site from time to time and they use tactics to pretend they sort-of agree with us.
+4 # Billy Bob 2012-02-03 10:38
"... even if we DIS-agree sharply on some of the details..."

I noticed my mistake after I clicked send.
+1 # 2012-02-04 04:35
Me too, Billy Bob and I apologize for misreading "some of the details..."
+6 # X Dane 2012-02-03 02:34
markhalfmoon, there is STILL denial of course. It was horrific what happened to black people, and it hasn't stopped.
The terrible way they were treated, is still haunting not just black people but it affects all of us.

Black families were broken up, and sold away, creating so much heartache, insecurity, and deep sadness.

It made the women stronger, they had to withstand the harsh conditions. But it destroyed the family unit, because children often were sold and a wife and husband split up too.

It is tragic, because it is still affecting some black families. A strong wife can feel threatening and emasculate the husband, to the point that he feels unappreciated, unimportant,.. and flees.

As one person here commented we are not that far removed from the civil war.
Responsible behavior takes many, many years to become habit.

Of course black husbands and fathers have
come a long way, I would think the majority would not abandon their family any more than a white father would.

White people surely bears responsibility for the weakening of black families. We all need to understand what was done to black people, amd help where we can.
+6 # X Dane 2012-02-03 02:43
continued. I was so hopeful when Obama was elected. I thought the country had grown up, and would feel good about a beautiful family with 2 young daughters.
I am sure they are a source of pride for many black people.

Michelle Obama is a wonderful first lady and a great role model.
So it is sad that there still is so much racism and hatred in the country.
We have to do what we can to stamp it out.
-9 # HJ7 2012-02-03 18:41
Quoting markhalfmoon:

Can we put a little focus on the concentration camps that hold more than one million young black men who aren't even guilty of protest, loudly or otherwise?

Isn't there a well known saying to the effect....if you don;t want to do the time, don't do the crime?

Of course any rational analysis should compare the life of those whose ancestors moved to the USA from Africa with those who stayed behind.

The recent flood of people trying to move from Africa to the USA compared with the trickle moving the other way would suggest that those whose ancestors emigrated out of the dark continent should be thanking God for their good fortune.
+10 # MidwestTom 2012-02-02 08:53
I am not disagreeing with your statement klondikekitty, but having worked on a farm in Central America and doing business in sub-saharan Africa, I can tell you that a promise of three meals of any kind and a roof over their head at night would bring millions of workers if offered in those places. Twenty years ago in rural Honduras people offered to sell children to us. A shipping container to sleep in, and a daily serving a sadza will get you all the help you want in many parts of Africa. Westerners believe that everyone should have what we have, many will accept a lot less and be happy. I was lucky enough to work in Belize before they had television, and the people were quite happy with very little, by our standards. Television changed the country, suddenly the best and brightest all wanted to come ti America, which was a tragedy for Belize. The only way that they could achieve what they saw on TV was to get into the drug business or leave.
+12 # markhalfmoon 2012-02-02 13:16
Are you attempting to make the argument that American slavery wasn't all that bad? 

You seem to be saying that those Africans - who were dragged onto slave ships, torn from their loved ones, kicking and screaming, to endure the horrors of the 'middle passage' holocaust, placed naked upon auction blocks to be prodded like farm animals, bought and sold, forced to work under the threat of whip and gun, have every aspect of their lives tightly regulated and controlled by people who disdain, hate, and think them inferior, whipped bloody and/or raped at whim, forced to helplessly watch their wives, daughters, mothers and other loved ones whipped bloody and/or raped or be sold away from them - were actually lucky and that millions of people that you know of in Central America and sub-Saharan Africa would sell their children to have the good fortune to attain such a high standard of living. 

Is that what you're saying?

Besides enlightening us - unsolicited - just how damn happy the world's poor can be with so little, what the hell does any of this have to do with Mr. Anderson of Ohio's letter to Colonel Anderson of Tennessee?
+6 # KittatinyHawk 2012-02-02 19:31
You do not have to leave America to see people live in much the same situations and have for centuries, this one being the worst.
In fact many a prisoner, commits a crime to go back to the meals and roof.
There were concentration camps in the west and mid west. Look them up on search engines. Some were used against our own American Indians, Japanese Citizesn and who knows who else has been kept their. But I am sure it has gotten plenty of use, with plenty of excuses.
Most of those detained here were Citizens. So that witch hunts, sacrificing humans is going on today and catching a new wind, doesn't surprise me at all.
markhalfmoon is nice enough to feel the torment the slaves went thru, yet the American Indians whose land we still trespass were our first 'Heathens' we befriended than put bullets in the back of out of fear and greed. We haven't changed our Religious Cults and Politicians are always making up new 'Heathens' to fit their quest for more.

I do not have the time but American Concentration camps is all one has to punch in, amazing what one could learn. I heard of them in the 1950's...
+8 # historywriter 2012-02-02 19:38
What's that got to do with U.S. slavery? Slaves didn't usually get 3 meals a day, and the roofs leaked.
+8 # michelle 2012-02-02 21:50
As suggested above, read Harriet Jacobs, Incident in the Life of a Slave Girl, and you soon discover happiness just isn't a commodity available for slaves. Imagine for just a moment not being able to protect your children. Even after escaping to a free state in the North, her freedom was not assured. Her final 'sale' took place in New York when she was purchased by a friend to keep her from being snatched and taken back to the South. You were not safe in a free state. The book provides a look at the daily difficulties and indignities people suffered. I really recommend the book.
I lived in a small horticultural society in the South Pacific and while people were certainly comfortable without all of the western goodies in their lives, they did not suffer from the powerless position and daily depravation of slaves. That is the big difference. It's about agency in your own life and lives of those close to you.
+16 # reiverpacific 2012-02-02 10:29
Quoting MD426:
I find this letter highly implausible. Even with an intermediary to write the letter, would an ex-slave during this period be so articulate and so sarcastic? The concepts, such as recompense, are very modern and the vernacular mixed. I'm surprised that RSN is publishing it here with no caveat as to it's authenticity.

You need to read more mate. A lot of the slave, at great risk to themselves, dared to teach themselves to read and write and some "owners" (that word remains today) actually encouraged this as a they left their own kids in the care of the black women. My own wife's Grandmother in Florida -while not exactly a "slave-owner" had a black cook and housekeeper, treated her very well and left her quite well-off in her will (this was the 1930', 40's and 50,s). Also, Mr. Anderson had been in Ohio for a while and placed great importance on education of himself and his family.
For an in-depth look at this in different times and demographics, read "The Warmth of Other Suns" by Isabell Wilkerson and more currently, the best seller "The Help" by Kathryn Stockett plus "Call Him George" (Lewis) by the great New Orleans clarinetist's manager Jay Allison Stewart.
Hell, I've lived and worked around the South and the attitudes of many whites hasn't changed to this day -and it's not entirely confined to the Bible-Belt either!
+5 # wendy 2012-02-02 11:13
Fascinating read but I've been seeing this all over the net. What I haven't seen all over are reports about the study showing a correlation between bigotry and low IQ as reported on

or is that issue just too hot to handle?
+13 # Pinetree05 2012-02-02 11:26
The horror of the crime of rape in slavery is never to be forgotten. To be a prisoner and violated, used as an object by an oppressor must never be allowed anywhere, anytime.

Women, God be with you, and get to safety.
-4 # bobby t. 2012-02-02 13:15
while writing a book on elementary school teaching methods, i noted how the language of english is not phonetic, and is that way for many reasons, one of which is to make it difficult to learn how to read and thus take jobs away from the established upper classes. this has been done in many countries. the fastest way to improve the economy of a country is to make the language simple to read and write. remember the literacy tests in the south? could not vote unless you passed it. that test was struck down. that gave lots of "redneck" whites the right to vote too. it was not just anti black. we need to make our language easier to read and spell. a simple english was invented years ago called the initial teaching alphabet. the world island for example would be ieland in in first grade using i.t.a. were able to learn to read and write in less than a month. we could wipe out illiteracy in america with that change. for traditionalists , tell me, is our english the language of the english in the year 1200 a.d.? i type lower case. one of my things. sorry mate.
+12 # markhalfmoon 2012-02-02 13:45
No. I'd rather stick with real English. Words that are not spelled phonetically are not there to make it difficult to learn the language. Those words usually are from or have roots in another language, such as Latin, Greek, or French.

Language does continuously evolve over time, which is why modern American English is not identical to 13th century English. But the idea of purposely dumbing it down is not a good one. We already are experiencing an excellerated change due to the new abreviated Internet-speak.

I have young people talking to me in letters (omg, lmao, stfu, etc.) and even in shortened code phrases. I don't know what the hell they're talking about.

If that 19th century slave could learn how to read and write well enough to express himself, I think it's fair to expect our children to be motivated to spell correctly, *and* to use the proper case.
+11 # leedeegirl 2012-02-02 15:34
Quoting markhalfmoon:
No. I'd rather stick with real English. Words that are not spelled phonetically are not there to make it difficult to learn the language. Those words usually are from or have roots in another language, such as Latin, Greek, or French.

Language does continuously evolve over time, which is why modern American English is not identical to 13th century English. But the idea of purposely dumbing it down is not a good one. We already are experiencing an excellerated change due to the new abreviated Internet-speak.

I have young people talking to me in letters (omg, lmao, stfu, etc.) and even in shortened code phrases. I don't know what the hell they're talking about.

If that 19th century slave could learn how to read and write well enough to express himself, I think it's fair to expect our children to be motivated to spell correctly, *and* to use the proper case.

BRAVO, markhalfmoon; I applaud your defense of English. HOWEVER, that being said, here is your English lesson for the day: "excellerated" should be "accelerated"
+6 # markhalfmoon 2012-02-02 18:33
Thank you. I thought that looked wrong. Can I blame it on spell check?
+8 # Billy Bob 2012-02-02 21:37
No you can't. You can blame it on being a human who iznt prefict. Your point is still well taken. Just because proper English isn't as easy as dumbing it down doesn't mean we should just throw in the towel.

The problem with dumbing it down isn't just asthetic (sp?). It's about subtle but important nuances that are necessary to convey the actual intended meaning. The fact is that you can't "translate" Shakespeare or even Dickens to modern English without losing something. What you're losing is the entire context of the story.

We can't accept this intentional dumbing down. It will have the affect of dumbing down our entire society and ability to communicate. Isn't it evident that that's already happening?

I do it intentionally in my own posts:

I know that repug proper nouns are spelled with a capital just like non-repug nouns. I know that it's not actually spelled "repug". I know that I'm OVER separating paragraphs (I do that to make my points more distinct from one another so people won't pass them up). I know that "president" is not necessarily capitalized (I do that one to remind repugs of who's in office and that he was elected fairly). I know that using words in all caps looks stupid, but I can't italicize and want my writing to convey how psychotically adamant I am about whatever point I'm making (I really AM screaming).

+2 # 2012-02-03 01:07
Markhalfmoon: excellent comment. I agree
+1 # 2012-02-04 04:57
B B: I do the same thing.
+5 # Billy Bob 2012-02-02 21:37

STILL, I know better than to write this kind of prose in an arena where my personal reputation is at stake and where I want to be taken seriously in a professional manner. I don't write to impress anyone on these threads. I write to manipulate people into agreeing with my opinions. Outside of these threads, I think we need to hold on to English with all of its expressive power without giving any of that up willingly.
+8 # historywriter 2012-02-02 19:47
You're right, but here are some other horrors:
At its heart, American slavery was a brutal system based upon physical force, threats, torture, sexual exploitation, and intimidation. Any black resisting overtly the orders of a slaveholder, or almost any white in the community, could expect immediate and often brutal retaliation. . . . punishment for slaves included verbal rebukes, a few "cuts" with a stick or riding whip, kicks to the body, boxing of ears, confinement in corn cribs or tool sheds, branding on the flesh of the hand or head with a hot iron applied for 20 seconds, and mutilation of the body by clipping the ears, breaking legs, severing fingers, and slitting tongues. In some cases, slaves were forced to wear iron chains and even iron masks on their heads for weeks and months at a time. But the most common form of slave punishment was a severe whipping."
How many of you are married? Or are parents? Your "spouse"--the marriage ceremony was a little informal -- or your children could be sold to other slaveholders anywhere, and the family split up
+18 # fredboy 2012-02-02 17:09
In graduate school I was honored to read the beautiful writing of hundreds of slaves, escaped slaves, and freed men and women. Their writing, like so much of the writing of the day, was far more eloquent and clear than most writing today. Remember also that while reading and writing was prohibited by many slave holders, such prohibition fueled the intent to learn burning in the bravest among them. And learn they did.

What has long amazed me is how far African Americans have come in such a brief time since the travesty and horror of slavery ended. The grace of this letter also reminds us all of the kindness, understanding, and forgiveness--th e magnificent spiritual decision to move forward--shared by so many whose families were brutalized by the centuries of slavery.
+14 # minnie cat 2012-02-02 18:48
"The past isn't dead. It isn't even past." William Faulkner
+2 # 2012-02-04 05:21
Falkner was one of our greatest novelist who wrote about the South during the time of slavery..He had great insight about and undersanding of the Master-Slave relationship. It correlated with Hegel's theory that whenever you enslave another human being you become enslaved by the one you enslave and there's no escaping it. Recommend "Sound and Fury".
+8 # Rayna 2012-02-02 19:43
Elegant. Well-said. Like a wise man speaking to a simple child, chastising with the precision of a scalpel disguised as a butter knife. Brilliant. And I absolutely LOVE the dripping sarcasm. Bravo!
After all of the atrocities perpetrated against himself and his loved ones, this man could express himself cleverly, without radiating anger or blame, in a manner that would make any intelligent person think, as well as (hopefully, if they are not stupid), feel properly chastised.
I applaud this man. Although he may have dictated the words, they were still his. There is nothing wrong with that. That takes nothing away from the intent of what he wrote.
Racism is not gone. Racist acts in the business world are covered up with flowery and misleading distractions in order to draw attention away from what would be seen as blatant bigotry if anyone looked close enough to find the "man behind the curtain."
My belief is that everyone of every race has some small degree of prejudice against some other people. It just seems to be a human trait or condition. The trick is to let that small degree of prejudice stay small. Don't feed it. Don't pet it, and don't hold it. Then it cannot grow.
+5 # rachel 2012-02-02 21:16
listening to comments from white persons after watching a filming of Beloved a few years ago--comments revealing the film baffled them--I felt the level of difficulty the film presented but I also agreed with my husband who said simply that as Americans we had not yet come to terms with slavery as part of our history meaning, I think, that the reality & the memory have become part of the collective unconscious where they are disturbing and denied
+4 # historywriter 2012-02-03 19:43
We have not come to terms with "America's original sin." We don't want to talk about it or discuss it, out of shame (I hope). And we have no idea how to make it right.
Everyone raised in the United States is prejudiced. But there are ways of alleviating it. First: Acknowledge it, notice it, try to stop reacting in a prejudicial manner.
I also strongly urge people to take a short course in white privilege (or read a book). I think it will surprise most of you. We do not see the sea we swim in.
+5 # m... 2012-02-02 22:07
Scene: Indoors. A brightly lit hall.
The 30 year long Neo Corporate CONservative FLIM FLAM begins to disassemble the greatest, most envied Government System in world History at the behest of GLOBAL Corporate Interests. All in the name of God, Freedom, Liberty and PROSPERITY FOR ALL..!
Relentless Deregulation and De-Taxation Schemes on behalf of Global Corporate Interests occur year after year.
Global Corporate Wealth,Power, Size and Influence snowballs as their WANT and GREED is unshackled.
Governments are bought and paid for and the snowballing accelerates.
Almost all Media Enterprises are bought and controlled by just a few Global Conglomerates and the snowballing of power and influence becomes exponential.
The Corporate Contracting of almost all Government Functions into a million bits and useless pieces for the sake of Corporate coffers spreads to all levels of 'Government.'
Corporate Dominion over everything grows, expand, is now Global-- almost to 'Brave New Orwellian World' in size.


Global Corporate becoming 'Master.' Citizens becoming Indentured, Indebted Servants.
Where the only hope if left unchecked, is that the effort to balance Slavery with Corporate need for Consumer Purchasing Power leaves most with the basics necessary for survival and just enough feeling of something left to lose.
+3 # X Dane 2012-02-03 15:56
m...You are rightly pointing out that we really are trapped. I can't see how we can cut a way out of the tangle we are trapped in.
Citizens United is destroying and strangling us and making it impossible, or at least very, very dufficult to undo it.

Berni Sanders and some other law-makers are trying. I sure hope they and we will be able to prevail
+6 # Amir Mashay 2012-02-02 22:17
Let's not forget that slavery in the US was "better" than elsewhere because here we were bred, while in many parts of the Caribbean, Haiti for example, the death rate forced slaves to be replenished at a higher rate. About the letter, it was DICTATED, so the writer may have written it differently than it was spoken. Also, Jourdan had time to reflect on what his message should be. We have no idea what slavery was like then, and nothing now compares with it.From my ancestors, I know that an unimaginable amount of restraint, even as far away as Ohio, had to be maintained.
-6 # MD426 2012-02-03 08:40
Sorry to have ruffled so many people's feathers with my previous post. I did not mean to belittle the tragedy and barbaric conditions of slavery, nor did I mean to imply that there were no articulate ex-slaves capable of sophisticated sarcasm. I meant that IMHO it is implausible that this letter was dictated more or less verbatim by an ex slave and actually sent to his former master. Other researchers have noted that this letter was reprinted in the New York tribune on Aug. 22, 1865 little more than 2 weeks after it's writing on Aug. 7. It had already been published in Cincinnati Commercial, before Aug. 22. Additionally it was published in The Agitator in October. During this time there were very active abolitionist movements, including the Freedman. It seems to me that although the slave Jordan Anderson and family are accounted for in the Census of the era, as is a slave owner by the name of Anderson, the letter itself could well have been the work of an abolitionist group to promote their movement. This would account for it's rapid publication.
+1 # Amir Mashay 2012-02-03 11:54
What concrete evidence do you base your supposition on? Is it possible that the letter not only was sent to the former master but also circulated to the press as well? Could Jordan himself had abolitionist leanings (undoubtedly) and knowing the power of the printed word been a party to its public dissemination? His words could have been written down not entirely the way that he spoke them, and if so, your point is a minor one, unless the letter wasn't genuine.
+2 # MD426 2012-02-03 14:29
Amir, It's nothing to get excited about. No matter what the letter's origins, with its appearance in various publications, it was probably a very effective piece of PR in 1865 as it is today!
+2 # markhalfmoon 2012-02-04 18:52
MD426 doesn't have to present evidence to support his or her humble opinion, but one does wonder why it is so important for MD426 to insist upon sharing the opinion that the letter was so implausible.

It just seems to reveal such a limited imagination, which I'm sure was not the intention. Would the plausibility of the letter be as much of a question if it were written by a mid 19th century Irish indentured servant?
-2 # MD426 2012-02-05 08:21
Mark, A great deal of my professional life was spent fact-finding. When something doesn't seem to add up, it arouses my curiosity and I feel a need to try to figure it out.

My questioning of this letter is not based on any preconceived idea about the intellectual abilities of ex slaves. It's based on the structure and context of the contents, the timeline in relation to the civil war, and its rapid appearance in at least three publications.

I'm surprised that so many people here accept its supposed origins and purpose unquestioningly based on what appears to be pure emotion.

No matter how righteous a set of cultural beliefs may be, including the belief that slavery is an abomination. it's still important to have the ability to question.

When we follow the herd, even if it seems like the right the direction, we may still go over the cliff.
0 # MD426 2012-02-05 08:34
I lifted the following from the Snopes Comment board.

"Allow me to refer readers to a hugely reliable source in which Jourdon Anderson's letter was included and critiqued, that being Leon Litwack's Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award-winning "Been in the Storm So Long", published in 1979. (This seminal work also includes Depression Era interviews of ex-slaves by the Federal Writers' Project, which are amazing.) I cannot say for sure that this was the first compendium in which the letter was reproduced, but it well might have been. I had the pleasure to hear Prof. Litwack read the letter (one of his favorites, he always pointed out) in his class at UC Berkeley, and to discuss it with him in a forum for secondary school history teachers. Hoping not to mischaracterize his analysis, Prof. Litwack's strong feeling is that -- while based on a real person's experiences, and perhaps even on anecdotal evidence drawn from direct interview(s) with Mr. Anderson -- the letter itself was almost certainly written by one of the professional writers of the Cincinnati Commercial, a daily that ran from the 1850's to the 1860's with a strong abolitionist bent. This in no way takes away from the power of the letter, which strongly hits home very real experiences that were widespread."
+7 # tipping007 2012-02-03 10:28
So...not to change the subject, but after being freed Mandy received $8/month to Jourdon's $25.

"At twenty-five dollars a month for me, and two dollars a week for Mandy"
+1 # markhalfmoon 2012-02-04 18:57
The letter did not specify what jobs Jourdon and Mandy were employed in. Perhaps that, as well as the gross gender pay inequity of the day is responsible for the difference.
+3 # Karlus58 2012-02-04 19:57
Hey my friends! I can't remember when there were so many incredible remarks on this forum. What an incredible,inte lligent, thoughtful,and ageless letter. Thank you all for responding.
0 # themessenger 2012-09-29 20:00
Though not well known...Jourdan Anderson made an audible record of his letter. You may hear it at my website:
0 # Boldhawk 2014-08-22 20:19
Haven't read all the comments, but most. They all deserve thumbs up.
Same old problems haven't ended yet as of today.

The right message is continuously being missed by those perpetuating the racial tensions. I which I knew how to get some idea across that might touch even a handful of closet racists [most of which remain, pretend to be otherwise, but police seem to keep on enforcing the powers that rule them].

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