A Letter from Jourdan Anderson

Many of you have probably used the remarkable letter of a former slave by the name of Jourdan Anderson sent a letter to his former master. The roughly 800-word letter, which was a crafty response to a missive from Colonel P.H. Anderson, Jourdan’s former master back in Big Spring, Tennessee. Apparently, Col. Anderson had written Jourdan asking him to come on back to the big house to work.  I created the timeline below from internet resources to set the historical context for my students.

Life in Tennessee 1823 to 1864

1823 General Paulding Anderson’s son Patrick Henry Anderson is born in  Big Spring, TN (Wilson County)

1825 – Jourdan Anderson is born in December, some place in Tennessee.

1833 – Jourdan Anderson (age 8)  becomes the slave of General Paulding Anderson  and is given to his son Patrick Henry Anderson (age 10)  as as playmate and personal servant

1844 – Patrick Henry Anderson (age 21) married Mary A. McGregor. She brought with her at least two servants, Amanda McGregor (age 15) and her mother, Priscilla McGregor (age 43). Patrick took several of his father’s slaves to his new home, including Jourdon.

1848 – Jourdan (age 23)  married Amanda McGregor (age 19), Over 52 years of marriage theuy will have 11 children. The children born in Tennessee “seem” to have been Matilda, Catherine, Mildred (known as Milly) circa 1848, Jane circa 1851 and Felix Grundy, born on March 14, 1859. I use the word “seem” because there are no concrete records that prove Matilda and Catherine were Jourdon and Amanda’s children.

There was a Felix Grundy who served as a US Senator from Anderson’s home state of Tennessee in the 1830s who has a Tennessee county named after him

 1860 – According to the 1860 census and slave schedules, Patrick Henry Anderson (age 37) has five ‘slave houses’ on his plantation totaling 32 people (19 males and 13 females) Before the start of the Civil War. P.H. Anderson had a personal estate valued at $92,000 (2.867 million in 2018 dollars)

1861 – April 12th  Confederate artillery fired on the Union garrison at Fort Sumter marking the start of the Civil War ; June 8th Tennessee became the last state to secede from the Union. When the Civil War began in 1861, Jordan’s life changed very little and he still continued to dutifully work the plantation for his master with his wife.

1864 – Union Soldiers happened upon the Anderson plantation.  Upon encountering Jordan, the soldiers granted him, his wife and children their freedom, making the act official with papers from the Provost Marshal General of Nashville

Upon being granted his freedom, Jordan immediately left the plantation which angered P.H. Anderson’s son Henry (age 18) to such an extent that he shot at Jordan as he was leaving, only ceasing to fire when a neighbor, George Carter,  grabbed Henry’s pistol from him. Reportedly, Henry vowed to kill Jordan if he ever set foot on his property again.

Jordan and Mandy worked for a time  at the Cumberland Military Hospital in Nashville under the surgeon in charge  Dr. Clarke McDermont.  Jordan and Mandy, with the help of Dr. Clarke McDermont, relocated to Dayton, Ohio in August of 1864

Life in Dayton, Ohio 1865 to 1905

1865 – Following his departure from the plantation, Jordan worked briefly in a Nashville field hospital, becoming close friends with a surgeon called Dr Clarke McDermont. When the Civil War ended in 1865, McDermont helped Jordan and his family move to Dayton, Ohio and put him in contact with his father-in-law, Valentine Winters, an abolitionist who helped him secure work in the town.

For the most part, Jordan’s life in Dayton was uneventful, with his time spent working with a stoic sense of quiet dignity, supporting his family and making sure his many children received a good education, something the illiterate Jordan was never given the opportunity to have. (In fact, it was noted that while still a slave, when an unspecified white girl tried to teach one of his children to read, the girl was beaten for it and forced to stop.)

The Letter

As it turns out, following the Civil War, the Anderson Plantation had fallen into complete disrepair, as is wont to happen when your entire workforce leaves pretty much all at once.

Deeply in debt, in a desperate attempt to save himself from total financial ruin, Henry reached out to the only man he knew who not only had the skills needed for the harvest, but also potentially the clout to convince some of the other slaves to return for paid work- Jordan Anderson. The letter also promised that Jordan would be paid and be treated as a free man if he returned.

He is a list of the payments requested by Jourdan from his former master and the 2017 equivalents:

Jourdan – $25.00 ($400.00 in 2017 dollars) per month for 32 years

Mandy  – $8.00 ($120.00 in 2017 dollars) per month for 20 years

$11,600.00  ( $175,000 in 2017 dollars)   with interest

1867 – A penniless Colonel P.H. Anderson dies of heart attack at age 44

1870 – Census records show  Jordon Anderson living in Ohio with Mandy, four children (Jane, Felix, William, and Andrew). Jordan will find work as a janitor, coachman, laborer and sexton.

1905 – The Dayton Daily Journal publishes Jordan Anderson’s obituary. He was 79 years old.

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Freed slave who penned sarcastic letter to old master after he was asked back to farm pictured for first time

 

 

American Biographies

Inspired by the hit Broadway musical Hamilton I decided to incorporate historical actors into every time period covered in my Advanced Placement United States course. After reading NY Times critic Ben Brantley’s August 6, 2015 review of ‘Hamilton.’ I was drawn to one particular paragraph that captured the essence of the American story: “Mr. Miranda’s Hamilton, a propulsive mix of hubris and insecurity, may be the center of the show. But he is not its star. That would be history itself, that collision of time and character that molds the fates of nations and their inhabitants.”

As social studies professionals we are in the business of telling stories. History is drama. It’s full of character and conflict. Who is protagonist?   Who has the starring role?  What, when, and where does the plot turn? Does it have a happy or tragic ending? These are the problems historians deal with when they tell the story of America. Effective educators tirelessly weave endless narratives about America’s past into lesson plans designed to share what this collision of time and character ultimately created.

While the chronological framework of any US History course is pre-determined, stressing the importance of uncovering the life stories of individuals or groups creates the possibility of a broader understanding of the American story.  As historians we should
emphasize that history is made by many nameless and faceless  people—slaves, factory workers, farmers, suffragists, and others— are agents of  historical change.

American Biographies companion website

 

 

 

Henry Clay’s lessons for today

One of the ironies that besets any institute devoted to the study of the US Senate is that mulling today’s Senate is akin to contemplating a patient in a long-term coma. The Senate can’t function well without compromise — and in today’s political climate, compromising is often seen as selling out. In a far more polarized era, however, Clay found a way to make the Senate work.

David and Jeanne Heidler, authors of Henry Clay: The Essential American, have tried to make sense of Clay’s stance on slavery. They tell NPR’s Steve Inskeep that it wasn’t until he fell under the tutelage of George Wythe, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, that Clay began to think seriously about the issue

“A Rope of Sand”

 

 

 

 

 

America’s First Constitution  – “A Rope of Sand”
The Articles of Confederation, reflecting republican fears of both centralized power and excessive popular influence, leads to conflicts among the states that threaten the existence of the young nation.

No executive leadership

No national court system

One State, One Vote

No power to TAX

Northwest Ordinance (1787)

Shays’ Rebellion (1787)

The Logic of Resistance

 

 

 

 

 


The Logic of Resistance [1770 to 1774
]
Colonial reactions to perceived threats from the British help unite the colonies and provide a training ground for young colonial politicians – a formative step toward organized rebellion.

Boston Massacre
Committees of Correspondence
Boston Tea Party
Coercive Acts (Intolerable Acts)
First Continental Congress

Who was La Malinche?

 Using NPR Podcasts to tell the American story

La Malinche known also as Doña Marina was a Nahua woman from the Mexican Gulf Coast, who played a role in the Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire, acting as an interpreter, advisory, mistress, and intermediary for the Spanish conquistador, Hernán Cortés. She was one of 20 women slaves given to the Spaniards by the natives of Tabasco in 1519. Later, she became a mistress to Cortés and gave birth to his first son, Martín, who is considered one of the first Mestizos (people of mixed European and indigenous American ancestry).

NPR Podcast: Who was La Malinche?  (6:50)

HOW TO DELIVER CONTENT IN THREE EASY STEPS!

1. Create a class account using the Remind.com text service.

2. Search the American Pageant’s Infinite Playlist and select the file you want to send to your students.

3. Paste the podcast link in your Remind.com text message and send!

Gilder Lehrman Study Guides

AP US History Exam Prep
Start building your Toolbox now!


Review the scope of US history with the Gilder-Lehrman  online AP US History Study Guide, which follows the AP US History course from 1692 to the present

Watch videos for detailed tips on how to answer the various question formats (multiple choice, short answer, document-based essay question, long essay) and get tips on how to think like a historian.

US History Mission Statement

Here is a fantastic mission statement for an Advanced Placement U.S. History course. These are the words of  award winning documentary film maker Ken Burns.  I first heard the following quote on a National Constitution Center podcast about Mr. Burn’s film Prohibition.

“I am in the business of history. It is the avocation I have chosen to practice my craft of film making. Over the many years of practicing, I have come to the realization that history is a not a fixed thing, a collection of precise dates, facts and events that add up to a quantifiable, certain, confidently known, truth. It is an inscrutable and mysterious and malleable thing. Each generation rediscovers and re-examines that part of its past that gives its present, and most important, its future new meaning and new possibilities.

I am interested in that mysterious power of history, and I am interested in its many varied voices. Not just the voices of the old top-down version of our past, which would try to convince us that American history is only the story of Great Men. And not just those pessimistic voices that have recently entered our studies, voices which seem to suggest that our history is merely a catalog of white crime. I am interested in listening to the voices of a true, honest, complicated past that is unafraid of controversy and tragedy, but equally drawn to those voices, those stories and moments, that suggest an abiding faith in the human spirit and particularly the unique role this remarkable and sometimes dysfunctional Republic seems to play in the positive progress of mankind. That, quite simply, has been my creed, my mantra, the lens through which I have tried to see our shared past, to understand its stories, for more than 30 years”.   Source Link

 

Additional U.S. History Resources
Prepare and Perform with History 360