Jourdon Anderson, Letter to My Old Master (1865)

“Now, if you will write and say what wages you will give me, I will be better able to decide whether it would be my advantage to move back again.”¬†


It is pretty clear from the passage “Letter to My Old Master” by Jourdon Anderson, that slaves never liked to be under the control of the white master. And who could blame them; they were constantly beat, threatened, and even killed. There was no mutual trust established, thus that is why Jourdon asks for some money for his past service, as a sign of trust and appreciation. Plantation owners previously, would never pay a slave a cent, making it even harder for them to do it now. Never did it before, why start now? Thus money, would be a great sign of mutual trust.

Now, many would argue that the freed slaves were acting “too brave”, as if they were in control when it came to whites. But in reality, the newly freed were acting with much diplomacy. With the anger they had build up against their old masters, who treated them with little to no respect, who could blame them for being extra cautious. If anything, a rebellion or even a conspiracy against the master would be surely expected. ¬†Instead, Jourdon understands that his safety, family’s well being and financial means are suffering, thus he makes a beneficial proposition for both parties, to his previous plantation owner. Although the proposition might’ve been a bit risky, it was worth a try. At this point, nobody could bring him and his family back to his “Old Master”, so a bargain would not hurt. Everywhere was dangerous for the newly freed and finding a place they could trust and stay at was the hardest part. Jourdon’s diplomatic skills came to light as he ensures his loyalty to his master, “Although you shot at me twice before I left you, I did not want to hear at your being hurt”, and then goes on to ask about a possible opportunity at the old plantation.

The newly freed did not have a choice but to be “brave”; they had to survive in a world that was turned against them. The smarter ones, the more diplomatic ones, survived, understanding that they have to give in order to get. Although slavery was abolished, the idea of free labor was firmly stuck inside some white’s heads, making it harder for the freed slaves to survive on their own.