Tuesday, February 07, 2012

News--- Freedman's Letter To His Former Owner [Part Three: Historical Detection]

Text From HNet--Slavery Discussion Group:

This letter -- which is 100% legitimate -- "makes the rounds" every once in a while over the 147 years since it was first published in an Ohio paper, then copied in the NY Tribune, then in Lydia Maria Child's Freedmen's Book. In fact, it was oft-reprinted in a variety of publications between 1865-67, including in French. Then again during the 1960s/1970s. And again in the internet age.

Jordan (how his name was really spelled) and P.H. Anderson were real people. I've traced them and their story and am writing a book on both men and the letter. It's a fascinating story.

P.H. Anderson was "hip deep" in debt in August 1865 and had written Jordan, who had played a slave "managerial" role at Big Springs, to return I'm sure to help get in the harvest, help recruit back some of the slave laborers who had fled the plantation for nearby towns, and save the old plantation. Jordan didn't return, the plantation was lost, and P.H was dead by 1867.

Jordan and his family lived in Dayton, Ohio, from 1864 until his death in the early 20th century. He worked for the V. Winters mentioned in the letter.

Roy E. Finkenbine
Interim Dean and Professor of History
College of Liberal Arts and Education
University of Detroit Mercy

Also, David Blight adds:

From: David Blight [mailto:David.Blight@yale.edu]

Dear all:

This is just an addendum to Roy Finkenbine's important interjection here
on the Jordan Anderson letter. It is indeed the real thing, and many
of us have been teaching with it for many many years. The internet
makes it new to new people, which is of course what the internet does.
Leon Litwack reprinted it in full in his book Been in the Storm So Long, which is I believe the first place I saw it. For those who may not have taught the letter, read it out loud to your students. It has a special poignancy when taught that way. And good luck Roy; what a great idea for a book about emancipation and its aftermath in microcosm.

David Blight
Professor of History and Director, the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition, Yale University

Text Source: H-NET List for the History of Slavery February 6, 2012

Image Source: The Brightest Man, WikiSource

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