On Jourdon Anderson

Update (4:27 PM): One other thing that I would like to is interesting that the letter is being promoted as somehow recently or newly discovered, when it actually appears in many recent histories of slavery (as well as some textbooks and primary source readers).

Update (3:04 PM):
Also of note, the letter was reprinted in Lydia Maria Child's The Freedman's Book, a compilation of short stories, poems and abolitionist essays aimed at inspiring recently freed slaves by illustrating the accomplishments of African-Americans. It seems as if Anderson was serving as an inspiration even back in the nineteenth century.

Update (2:41 PM):
Worth mentioning is that The Liberator mentions the author as being "George Anderson" though I am not sure this change the equation much. If interested, the citation is George Anderson, "Letter from a Freedman to His Old Master"The Liberator 35, 1 September 1865: 140.

Original Post:
This is entirely unrelated to my usual blog content, however it was an issue that I wanted to chime in on. The Huffington Post yesterday had an article referencing a letter written by an ex-slave to his former master. The letter is remarkable in its restraint, while effective in its total take down of the former slave master. However, what struck me was (despite a link to an image of the article in the New York Tribune) a thread of comments doubting the veracity or existence of the letter (the original article notes that Anderson dictated his thoughts which were accurately reflected in the letter). I was interested to find out more. What I did find is that the article was reprinted throughout the northern press, including The Liberator, but also throughout the daily press of places stretching from Maine to Ohio.

Just as importantly, I believe that I have located Anderson in the historic record. The 1870 census lists Anderson as being born in Tennessee, living in Dayton, Ohio, and having a wife "Amanda" (named Mandy in the letter) and daughter Jane. Also interesting to note, is that Anderson is listed as being literate, able to both read and write.

To hopefully quell any doubts regarding this remarkable man's existence, I have posted the corresponding documents here. A shred of skepticism to claims of historic documents online is surely needed, however there was a bit of a knee-jerk reaction of negativity in the Huff Post article's comments.

Here is the full census:

And the lines on Anderson and his family (the two tick marks next to each other refer to ability to read and write, whereas the one on the far right denotes one male over 21 years of age living in the household):

And here is the article as it appeared in three locations, first the New Haven Daily Palladium:
Second, the Daily Cleveland Herald:

And lastly, the Boston Daily Advertiser:

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