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Slavery in America: Letter From a Free Man

A former slave sends his “Old Master” fierce words, dry wit—and a bill.

Slavery in America: Letter From a Free ManAP Photo
January 1, 2013, marks the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation. One man who took full advantage of his new freedom was Jourdon Anderson, a slave who fled his abusive “Master,” Col. Patrick Anderson, in Tennessee, to settle in Ohio as a free man. Shortly after the Civil War, the colonel beckoned Jourdon back to the failing plantation. Jourdon sent a droll reply in his place.

Dayton, Ohio, August 7, 1865

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. 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.

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