The Ultimate Goodbye From That Peculiar Institution

Lately, it seems like everyone is figuring out inventive ways to tell their employers “I Quit.” From Steven Slater’s dramatic exit from the JetBlue air-craft he was working aboard, to the “whiteboard girl“, which was later proven to be a hoax—creative ways in telling your boss to “piss off” are the new black this week. With that, check out what is probably the best, and maybe oldest letter of “you can kiss my ass” resignation that I’ve seen lately. It’s from Jourdon Anderson, a former slave, to his former owner P.H. Anderson of Wilson County, Tenn. Originally appearing in the August 22, 1865 issue of the New York Daily Tribune, it’s Jordan’s post-Civil War response to a letter that P.H sent, asking him to come back and work on his old plantation where he was enslaved. A choice excerpt:

As to my freedom, which you say I can have, there is nothing to be gained on that score, as I got my free papers in 1864 from the Provost Marshall-General of the Department of Nashville. Mandy says she would be afraid to go back without some proof that you were disposed to treat us justly and kindly; and we have concluded to test your sincerity by asking you to send us our wages for the time we served you. This will make us forget and forgive old scores, and rely on your justice and friendship in the future. I served you faithfully for 32 years, and Mandy 20 years. At 25 dollars a month for me, and 2 dollars a week for Mandy, our earnings would amount to $11,608. Add to this the interest for the time our wages have been kept back, and deduct what you paid for our clothing, and three doctor’s visits to me, and pulling a tooth for Mandy, and the balance will show what we are in justice entitled to.

Please send the money by Adam’s Express, in care of V. Winters Esq., Dayton, Ohio. If you fail to pay us for faithful labors in the past, we can have little faith in your promises in the future. We trust the Good Maker has opened your eyes to the wrongs which you and your fathers have done to me and my fathers, in making us toil for you for generations without recompense. Surely, there will be a day of reckoning for those who defraud the laborer of his hire.

In answering this letter, please state if there would be any safety for my Milly and Jane, who are now grown up, and both good looking girls. You know how it was with poor Matilda and Catherine. I would rather stay here and starve and die, if it comes to that, than have my girls brought to shame by the violence and wickedness of their young masters. You will also please state if there has been any schools opened for the colored children in your neighborhood. The great desire of my life now is to give my children an education, and have them form virtuous habits. Say howdy to George Carter, and thank him for taking the pistol from you when your were shooting at me.

Pay up! Jordan Anderson aka my new hero.

Props to BoingBoing for digging this up.


Last 5 posts by Shannon Washington

  • Dom

    This cant be for real. Like, I need someone to invent a time machine, and let me travel back to the exact room “Jordan Anderson” wrote this, and see this ish with my own two eyes. Its hilarious, but totally sounds like Satire.

  • Hey Dom,

    I went back to the original source and census records shown appear to prove Jordan’s existence. Jordan dictated the letter to a literate friend, who is widely believed to have added some spice to the letter.

  • Dom

    Well thanks for the follow up. I’ve been commenting for a long time and wondered when I’d hear back from ya’ll! I guess I’ll 1/2 way believe it, but I def see the sarcasm the literate friend threw in there. Cant believe an actual paper had the balls to print it though. Esp in those days!