A letter from a freed man to his former slave owner


To make up for the fact the Jenny the Whiteboard Woman is probably a fake, I bring an even better kiss-off to a former "employer"—a letter, reportedly dictated to a letter-writer in 1865 by one Jordan Anderson, former slave and then-current stableman, to former slave owner P.H. Anderson of Wilson County, Tenn.

The letter appeared in the Aug. 22, 1865 issue of the New York Daily Tribune, apparently in response to letter P.H. Anderson sent Jordan Anderson, suggesting that Jordan and his family ought to come back and work on the old plantation.

Jordan Anderson was not amused. His response includes some of the best polite "screw you's" that I've read in a while. Some high points:

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 any body else can. I have often felt uneasy about you. I thought the Yankees would have hung you 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.

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 Marshall-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 32 years, and Mandy 20 years. At 25 dollars a month for me, and 2 dollars a week for Mandy, our earnings would amount to $11,608. Please send the money by Adam's Express, in care of V. Winters Esq., Dayton, Ohio.

Say howdy to George Carter, and thank him for taking the pistol from you when your were shooting at me.

Now, one might suspect this letter to be a potential fake as well, except that the intrepid readers of the Slacktivist blog came up with census data supporting the existence of Jordan Anderson and P.H. Anderson, and their respective families, as talked about in the letter.

There's no guarantee that the letter is genuine, of course. But the matching census data certainly gives it a nice chunk of credibility. At least, more than Jenny the Whiteboard Woman. Frankly, Jordan Anderson sounds like he was a lot more awesome than her, too.