A remarkable letter written by an escaped slave living in Dayton to his former master was the subject of a public program recently at Woodland Cemetery and Arboretum.
Today is Juneteenth, also known as Juneteenth Independence Day or Freedom Day, which commemorates the emancipation from slavery in the U.S. Slaves had acted to secure their own liberty, including Jordan Anderson.
» UNMATCHED COVERAGE: Escaped slave living in Dayton sends rejection letter to former master
Jordan Anderson (spelled Jourdan in some documents) and his wife Amanda, escaped slavery from a Tennessee plantation in 1864 and eventually made their way to Dayton.
After the Civil War, the slaveowner, Col. Patrick Henry Anderson, contacted Anderson and asked him to return to work on his farm.
» DAYTON HISTORY: How a friend in the statehouse and Civil War veterans built the 150-year-old Dayton VA
Anderson’s reply, dated Aug. 7, 1865, was addressed “to my old master,” and published in the Cincinnati Commercial newspaper and then reprinted in the New York Daily Tribune on Aug. 22, 1865.
“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… 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.”
Jordan Anderson was a former slave who worked on a plantation in Big Spring, Tennessee. He wrote an infamous letter to his former master who had requested he return to the farm to work. Wikimedia Commons
In a measured tone Anderson asks what his former master is offering, and goes on to request back pay for decades of abusive labor:
“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 Dayton Daily News is committed to bringing you in-depth coverage of issues that matter to you. Read more about Anderson’s life in Dayton in this interactive report by reporter Lisa Powell.