How does Jourdan Anderson define freedom in his letter to his former master?

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thetall eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Although Jourdon Anderson did not overtly define freedom in his letter to his former master, the contents of the letter would suggest what he understood by the term.

Jourdon and his family worked as slaves for Colonel P. H. Anderson in Big Spring, Tennessee. The family was freed from Anderson’s plantation by Union soldiers, and they moved and settled in Ohio. Jourdon secured a paid job where he worked to provide for his family. He later received a letter from his former master asking him to come back and work for him on unspecified better terms.

In his response, Jourdon informed Colonel Anderson that he was living and supporting his family tolerably well with wages he earned at his new workplace. He stated that he lived in a comfortable home and that his children went to school. He also skeptically suggested that he would consider the offer if the Colonel would provide better terms. However, he sought to know whether the Colonel would pay him and his wife for the work they did as slaves as a demonstration of good faith and whether there was a school for colored people in Tennessee where his children could go. Additionally, he alluded to the fact that his young daughters were grownups, and he would not have them mistreated.

From his requests and current situation, one can deduce that Jourdon understood freedom to be one's right to be treated fairly without the threat of violence or intimidation. He wanted to be paid and recognized for the work he did. He also expressed his ability to freely negotiate with an interested employer on the terms of future work. Additionally, he demanded a better life for his family.

reidalot eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Jourdan Anderson's letter "To My Old Master," written August 7, 1865, Anderson discusses the benefits of freedom in various ways.

First of all, he is paid to work, unlike when he was slave. He earns twenty-five dollars a month in Ohio and is provided with "victuals and clothing." More importantly, his children attend school and are "learning well." The family attends church and has a comfortable home. His wife, Mandy, is shown respect in this free world; she is called Mrs. Anderson. The benefits of freedom consist of hope for the future generation.

As the letter continues, Anderson requests that if his former owner, Colonel Anderson, would like him to return to Tennessee, he pay him and his wife for their years of service when they were slaves as "in Tennessee there was never any pay-day for the negroes any more than for the horses and cows" (para 3). Anderson also requests the promise that his girls would not "be brought to shame."

It appears unlikely that Anderson and his family would return to Tennessee.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In his letter to his former master, Jourdan Anderson does not explicitly define freedom.  However, by looking at what he wants from his ex-master, we can guess at how he would define the term.

First, he wants to be paid for his work and to have his value acknowledged.  This is not simply a monetary thing.  Instead, it is clear that he thinks that it is important for his ex-master to realize that he is a person worthy of being paid.  Freedom, to him, is having this fact recognized.

Second, he wants to be sure that his kids will be able to grow up safely and have opportunities to get ahead.  He wants to be sure his daughters will not be molested and he wants his children to get an education.  This shows that freedom is, to him, the ability to protect one's children and to provide them with a hope for the future.