Automatically translated from Basque, translation may contain errors. More information here. Elhuyarren itzultzaile automatikoaren logoa

Free irony of the ex-slave

  • Big Springs, Tennessee, 1864. During the War of Secession, EU soldiers came to Colonel Patrick Henry Anderson’s plantation and released his slaves, including Jourdon and Amanda Anderson. They both moved to Dayton, Ohio, where they started working as free workers. In the summer of the following year, a few months after the civil war, the former owner wrote a letter to Jourdon asking him to go back to the plantation, as the business was in decline.
Ezkerrean Jourdon Anderson esklabo ohia, askatasuna 1864an lortu zuena. Eskuinean, Anderson koronela, Jourdonen jabe ohia. Argazkia: Dayton History Books
Ezkerrean Jourdon Anderson esklabo ohia, askatasuna 1864an lortu zuena. Eskuinean, Anderson koronela, Jourdonen jabe ohia. Argazkia: Dayton History Books

On August 7, 1865, former delegate Jourdon Anderson replied to his former owner, who, as he did not know how to write, issued the letter to his new stepfather, abolitionist lawyer Valentine Winters, who said “as he had heard.”

At the entrance, Jourdon says he is glad to know that the colonel is alive, “although he shot me twice before leaving.” And it greets the family. He then says that he is comfortable with the new life, that Amanda is called “Anderson” and that children are learning in school. So, “if you tell me how much I am going to receive, I decide if I should be returned.”

“Mandy is concerned,” the letter continues, “and wants to make sure that we treat each other gently.” To do so, Jourdon asks him for a test, to pay the salary he owes for the years he was a slave. “I worked at your service with total loyalty for 32 years and Mandy for 20 years. If I get 25 dollars a month and Mandy 2 dollars a week, our benefits would be 11,680 dollars. To this amount must be added the interests of the prolonged withholding of our wages and the expense of our clothing. I went to the doctor three times, Mandy got a tooth out of it, and you can take it away too.”

“I worked at your service with total loyalty for 32 years and Mandy for 20 years. If I get 25 dollars a month and Mandy 2 dollars a week, our benefits would be 11,680 dollars. To this amount must be added the interests of the prolonged retention of our wages"

Ohio, Jourdon paid the salary on Saturdays at night, “but Tenness blacks never got a pay, like horses and cows didn’t. Surely the date of expungement will come to all those who have deceived workers without paying wages.”

Then he talks about his children's future. She says her daughters, Milly and Jane, are comfortable and beautiful. “May I stay here and starve to death, may the violent and evil owners shame their daughters.” He also asks if they have opened schools for black boys and girls around the plantation, because “my main desire is to give proper education to my children.” Finally, he asks
George Carter Wilson to give lunches to his carpenter, “and thank him for taking the gun off when he was shooting at me.”

A proven history

Amanda, Jourdon and her children never returned to Big Spring. And the letter was immediately “viral”, first published in the Cincinnati Commercial newspaper and two weeks later, on August 22, it reached the pages of the New York Daily Tribune newspaper.

But there were also those who questioned the authenticity of the letter and the protagonists, thinking that they could be inventions of the abolitionists. Well, historians have checked all the data. Raymond Winbush followed Colonel's lead: he failed to return slaves to pay off his debts by selling his plantation and died two years later. Winbush managed to speak in 2006 with the slaves’ heirs and told him that “Jourdon had not yet gotten angry.”

The path of marriage was investigated by historian Michael Jonhson, exploring the lists of slaves and censuses. Mandy and Jourdon had 11 children, Jourdon died in 1907 at 81 and Mandy in 1913 at 80. They're buried together at Dayton's Woodland Cemetery.


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