A letter from a former slave to his former slaveowner in Tennessee is causing quite a stir.
It’s an amazing story and it comes to us from the blog Letters of Note. The owner, Colonel P.H. Anderson, of Big Spring, Tennessee, actually had the audacity to write requesting that he return to his farm after he had been freed. Jourdon Anderson, the former slave, now freed wrote one of the most eloquent letters I have ever read, highlights include much that we can learn from.
For instance: Forgiveness–or at least not letting hatred get in the way.
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.
Justice: The slave realizes his worth as more than chattel. He never intends to go back.
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.
Love it! I’m sure the Col. was appalled at even his suggestion of reparations.
And gratitude: Amazingly, Col. Anderson had tried to shoot him in the past–however, there were some good people in the world.
Say howdy to George Carter, and thank him for taking the pistol from you when you were shooting at me.
One further note, Jourdon still uses his slave surname, Anderson, the name of his former owner. Even not having a name of his own would not rob this man of his human dignity.
May we pray today that nobody is ever robbed of it again. Let us pray for those who are still enslaved–those who are trafficked to work in the farms and the sex trade. We pray for those enslaved by addictions and used by drug dealers for their benefit as they keep addiction alive. And we pray for an end to the hatred of racism—where one day we can all be judged by the content of our character, but not the color of our skin.
May that joyful day of God’s kingdom come to earth soon. Amen.
To read the whole letter–click here