What are some of the important themes in the Jourdon Anderson Letter?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I assume that you are talking about the letter that is in the gmu.edu link below.  There are many important themes in this letter.  Some of them include:

  • The idea that some slaves, at least, were somewhat inclined to feel affection for their former masters.  Anderson tells his former master that he feels affection for him even though Col. Anderson was shooting at him when they were last together.  He feels this way even though he was enslaved for 32 years.  This is very interesting because we often would not think of slaves having any affection for their masters.
  • Lingering distrust that balances the affection.  Anderson's letter is full of ambivalence.  He expresses affection, but it is also very clear that he does not trust his former master.
  • The prevalence of sexual violence towards slave women.  You can see this at the end of the letter where Anderson hopes for some reassurance that his daughters would not be treated like Matilda and Catherine (presumably older daughters) were.
  • Pride.  Anderson is clearly a proud person.  He values the work that he did while enslaved.  He values himself and his dignity and that of his family members.  This pride endured through all those years of slavery.

In these ways, this letter gives us a real window into the attitudes of former slaves soon after the end of the Civil War.

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