What Happened To The “SLAVE” Who Wrote The Letter Everyone is Talking About

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A letter written by a freed slave to his former master has surfaced again after almost 150 years and is creating a lot of buzz.

The letter was written by former slave Jourdon Anderson to his master Colonel P.H. Anderson in August 1865.

According to Letters of Note, Colonel Anderson had written his former slave, asking him to return to work as a freeman on the farm on which he had spent 30 years as a human tool.


The former slave’s response to his former master’s request surfaces again after the book, The Freedmen’s Book, compiled by Lydia Maria Child almost 150 years ago, was reissued this month. Child was born in 1802. Her husband David Lee Child, was an abolitionist who also campaigned for Indian rights and women’s rights.

Jourdon, in the letter replied to his master that he and his family had moved from Big Spring, Tennessee to Ohio, after being emancipated and now he had a job and was being paid, for the first time, for his labor.

The letter starts out heartbreaking and somber but by the letter’s end, it is revealed as one of the great, all-time, understated sarcastic missives, with the final sentence, “Say howdy to George Carter, and thank him for taking the pistol from you when you were shooting at me.”



According to Letters of Note, the New York Daily Tribune published the letter on Tuesday, August 22, 1865.

Here is the letter — OMG!

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 chance.

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.

So many people debated and debated about whether or not the letter was real or the slave was real. Well here’s what we’ve found.

David Galbraith did a little digging and found Mr. Anderson records from a 1900 census in Ohio. Click to see for yourself!



So, Mr. Anderson and his wife Mandy were married for 52 years. They had 11 kids , 6 were still living. Three of them were still at home in 1900 and all were in their 20′s looks like they were born after the letter was written.

There’s also a record of Anderson from the 1880 census, but this time they list him as “Jordon Anderson”. This census lists two older children, William and Andrew, the eldest of whom was born right around the time of Jordan and Mandy’s emancipation. Anderson’s occupation is listed as “coachman”.



Everyone in the household is listed as being able to read and write, just as Jordan wished for them in his letter:

The great desire of my life now is to give my children an education, and have them form virtuous habits.

Mr. Anderson died at the age of 79 according to the April 19, 1905 issue of the Dayton Daily Journal.



16 Comment

  1. Whether authentic or not, it may have been a blueprint for every former slave to build upon in order to set the record straight behind the notion that : the slaves were treated so well by their ‘masters’ that they didn’t want to leave his plantation! That’s just how sick (I think) white people really are.

    • This could be the first case for reparations. As a member of N’COBRA I am delighted that this letter has surfaced. For those who do not know that some folks have always known that the game is rigged they will be disappointed. For those who have known that the game was rigged this is fuel for the cultural revolution in America. Every member of the Congressional Black Caucus should memorize this letter so they can counter the mandate to live by faith in what George Corley Wallace said, his atonement.

  2. Well Axiomatic, I agree there are some very mean spirited people. But I think most of them, just wanted to use any excuse to make the evils of their ancestors seem not as evil. This story broke my heart and spoke to my spirit. it has to be authentic. Just like with the story of Nat Turner, it broke my heart, because in school, they taught us that he was an ignorant evil black man. He was an extremely religious man, who had enormous spiritual gifts. Most people don’t even know that of the 50 or so White people murdered, he only actually murdered one White Woman and that was because she saw him and started screaming his name so that he would be caught.

    Another story that broke me down, was the story of Emmitt Till. Lord knows I had to take off from work at least two days to come back from that one. So I am happy that Mr. Jordan was able to be emancipated, live a decent rest of his life and raised 11 intelligent children all at the hands of evil people he was born into.

  3. This reminds me so much of my family tree that it breaks my heart to read and look upon it because all of my “old” relatives are deceased.

    • I feel the same way. I don’t need a reparation all I really want is a family tree with the names of all my relatives from the slavery era.

  4. I wish there was a way for us to meet the decendants of slaves. What a wonderful way to energize this race. To talk to the families and get first hand TRUE HISTORY of what our forefathers had to bare. I am going to do some heavy heavy research on this brave, loving and alarmingly intelligent man.

    • To do that is up to us. This is Negro History Week-the true record. I do not allow folks to hijack Dr. Carter Godwin Woodson’s vision of 1926, that there be reocgnition of those who have meant so much in the struggle for manumission.

  5. Um… why was slave italicized? Clearly this person existed and was a slave who was emancipated. Seriously, these so called journalists and historians need to stop. Stop trying to rewrite history or imply/plant seeds of doubt. In the end truth will prevail it always does. It’s a force that pushes all human effort. The rocks are crying out.

  6. This proves once again, that we as Black Americans, do have a history…..

  7. This is a wonderful story that show that black people or not evil and that our history is just as good and true as the native americans, others that come to american. Even though we were bought on slave ships and treat not as human beings but as animals and even to this day we are still looked at as people of nothing. When need to teach our children the true history of our people and not be ashamed or angry about it. This letter was written to let our children know that having an education and doing the best you can in your life. It is left to let our children know that we did have a rich history and that we beleive in working and that we are just as good as anyone else. We should always remember that by teaching our children about our history will make them proud and not lost. We as the african american race really need to take the time to teach our children about there own family history so they can crave out their own.

  8. It brings tears to my eyes at how my ancestor were treated. But I feel proud to know that Mr J Anderson was a very intelligent and strong as a rock.
    I hope this letter open the eyes of our youth as well as all African Americans.

  9. I see on here people calling WHITE people sick, and other statements. Isn’t THAT considered racist as well. White is a race too. Its funny though, a bunch of sites made just for blacks is ok, but if it were the opposite and whites do the same its racism. Yea I get it, your ANCESTORS were wronged, not you. Get over it already! I’m from Cherokee ancestry and I’m not mad at anyone. Oh and before you have a chance – no, I don’t live on a reservation/casino related community. I live a normal American life.

    • Good for you!

    • You get over it, when will we stop hearing about the jews were treated in Germany.

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