Freed slave who penned sarcastic letter to old master pictured for the first time


[LEFT]Freed slave who penned sarcastic letter to old master after he was asked back to farm pictured for first time[/LEFT]

[LEFT]The photograph, scratched and undated, is captioned ‘Brother Jordan Anderson’. He is a middle-aged black man with a long beard and a righteous stare, as if he were a preacher locking eyes with a sinner, or a judge about to dispatch a thief to the gallows.[/LEFT]
[LEFT]Anderson was a former slave who was freed from a Tennessee plantation by Union troops in 1864 and spent his remaining 40 years in Ohio.[/LEFT]
[LEFT]He lived quietly and probably would have been forgotten, if not for a remarkable letter to his former master published in a Cincinnati newspaper shortly after the Civil War.[/LEFT]

[LEFT]Scathing: Former slave Jordan Anderson (left) wrote a satirical letter in 1865 to his old master after he was asked to return to work for him. [/LEFT]
[LEFT]Dayton, Ohio,[/LEFT]
[LEFT]August 7, 1865[/LEFT]
[LEFT]To My Old Master, Colonel P.H. Anderson, Big Spring, Tennessee[/LEFT]
[LEFT]Sir: I got your letter, and was glad to find that you had not forgotten Jordon, 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.[/LEFT]
[LEFT]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.[/LEFT]
[LEFT]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.[/LEFT]
[LEFT]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.[/LEFT]
[LEFT]Say howdy to George Carter, and thank him for taking the pistol from you when you were shooting at me.[/LEFT]
[LEFT]From your old servant,[/LEFT]
[LEFT]Jordon Anderson[/LEFT]


[LEFT]Jewell Wilson, the great-grandson of former slave Jordan Anderson, holds a family directory as he poses with his son Jewell Wilson Jr., left, and his nephew Barry Mumford Wilson[/LEFT]

[LEFT][SIZE=3]Read more:[/SIZE][/LEFT]


I don’t find that so much sarcastic as just stating the truth.


For a man who was a slave, that letter was dignified and reasonable. If I had sent a letter to my former slave master, it probably would have been a string of expletives, followed by some choice words of the carnal relations I had with his mother.

Good on him.


That was an amazing letter, and the humor was great. I wonder how mad and insulted the old owner felt upon reading it!


Mine just would of said

“nigga please”



[LEFT][SIZE=3]Scene: When Anderson was asked to work back at the plantation, pictured, he asked in the letter for a return on all the money he should have earned and said he had his daughters’ safety to think about[/SIZE][/LEFT]


Promise me, Red. If you ever get
out, find that spot. In the base of
that wall you’ll find a rock that
has no earthly business in a Maine
hayfield. A piece of black volcanic
glass. You’ll find something buried
under it I want you to have.

What? What’s buried there?

Eleven thousand six hundred and eight dollars.




thats exactly what i thought… they could make this into a prequel of shaw shank. They should call it Shanketheus.

doesnt he resemble the old black dude from that prison show called Oz?.. i’ll look for his pic…


Guy on the left looks like an old Anderson Silva.

The letter was more F U than all sarcasm. But maybe sarcasm was different back then.


Now if only SRK could be as witty and thoughtful as those 19th century slaves.


Probably cut out the part that says “PS: some decent food wouldn’t have hurt, either, you skinflint asshole.”. You know…in case a kid read it.


Dudley is probably a descendant of this guy.


If you thought that letter was great, try reading it with Morgan Freeman’s voice in your head.


good sir, requesting that my posts be witty & thoughtful, is asking for too much.

also, fantastic letter. fascinating.
and somehow i doubt that slave owner forwarded him his way past due wages.

though it woulda been cool if he did.
is there anything regarding what the old master did after receiving the letter?


holy shit this was this the first instance of trolling written down?

andersen well played sir. what a baller.


Pure class.

We can learn a lot from a man like that.


In more modern times, he could’ve just as easily sent an email and gotten the exact same result by replacing all the words with this gif



Interesting letter and well thought out.