23 April 2010

A former slave writes to his old owner

In 1865, Jourdon Anderson wrote a letter to his former owner, Colonel P.H. Anderson. It seems the Colonel had requested Jourdon to return to Tennessee for gainful employment. Here's an excerpt:

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 are sincerely 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 has 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.
Wow.

If you're of the skeptical bent, I did attempt to find some verification of authenticity. And there was nothing definitive, except a scan of its publication in the New York Daily Tribune on August 22, 1865. Ultimately, though, I don't care if it's legit -- its power is in the matter-of-fact, bordering on sarcastic tone.

Really, you should read the whole letter.

(via @maxsparber)

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