Dear Massa, Thanks But No Thanks

One of the things that pisses me off at times is when I hear the southern history revisionists try to pimp their ‘happy darkie’ lie about slavery to absolve themselves of the fact their ancestors committed a monstrous human rights crime.

Slavery had and still does have deleterious effects on this nation, race relations, and their community and mine almost 150 years later and was nothing Gone With The Wind happy about it for my people.

Was delighted to see this 1865 letter that’s been making the rounds in the Afrosphere, the Net from letters of composed by freedman Jourdon Anderson in response to a letter from his former master Colonel P.H. Anderson of Big Spring, Tennessee asking him to come back to the big house to work for him.

Here’s Jourdon’s response to that letter.


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

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.


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