Former slaves, after the American Civil War and the collapse of slavery in the United States, sought new opportunities for economic growth. Many plantation-owners begged their former enslaved slaves to come back. Jourdan A. Anderson, a former enslaved, answered his former master with satirical remarks. Former slaves were taught to use clever misdirection to hide their true feelings. This account is reflected in his letter. His witty tone hides his views on freedom and exploitation. It also gives a glimpse of Anderson’s character.

P.H. Anderson offered Jourdon Anderson (his former slave) a job in exchange of money, food clothing and housing. Anderson did not accept the job but instead asked that his former boss pay back any wages owed by him. Anderson’s former master asked him to reveal the anger that led to his enslavement. This showed the South had never really surrendered. African Americans believed that freedom was equal under the laws. However, many whites preferred to define African Americans’ freedom as being free of servitude. Anderson illustrates this in a letter: “As far as my freedom that you claim I can have, it is not possible to achieve on that score .” Many whites believed that even after slavery was abolished, they could still control former slaves. According to them, the social hierarchy was unchanged. Many African Americans remained treated as if they were slaves, although their titles changed to freedmen. Many whites believed the 13th Amendment to be insignificant. Anderson subtly states that the United States government grants Anderson freedom, not his former boss.

Anderson continues by addressing the wages that his wife and he should receive, “less clothes and their three doctor visits” (p.2). This ironic statement is meant to show the degrading and humiliating treatment that they received. Anderson realizes that his request for compensation will not be granted. He wants to make it clear that even he is human. The elegance and hospitality of the old South was at African Americans’ expense.

Sexual exploitation of women, especially adolescents, was commonplace in the old south. Rape, brutality, and violence were common in the old South. Anderson says that he is willing to “starve and even die” rather than see his girls put down by the violent and wickedness displayed by their young masters. (p.2). He criticizes the actions of his former master, but he does so in a way that demonstrates his character. He recognizes his superiority and uses that to exert power over his former boss.

Jourdan has the ability to write in a satirical manner because of his experience as a former slave. Anderson does not use harsh or abusive language to his former boss, but condemns brutality with great force. The 13th Amendment is responsible for Anderson’s freedom to express himself. His writing has a satirical, patronizing tone. A tone that used to carry consequences. The letter is a well-written example of freedom and exploitation. It also shows his character.


  • owenbarrett

    I'm Owen Barrett, a 31-year-old educational blogger and traveler. I enjoy writing about the places I've visited and sharing educational content about travel and culture. When I'm not writing or traveling, I like spending time with my family and friends.