The photograph, scratched and undated, is captioned ‘Brother Jordan Anderson’. He is a middle-aged black man with a long beard and a righteous stare, as if he were a preacher locking eyes with a sinner, or a judge about to dispatch a thief to the gallows.
Jordan Anderson (pictured), who was freed from a Tennessee plantation by Union troops in 1964, wrote a hilariously scathing letter to his former master in 1865.
Anderson was a former slave who was freed from a Tennessee plantation by Union troops in 1864 and spent his remaining 40 years in Ohio.
He lived quietly and probably would have been forgotten, if not for a remarkable letter to his former master published in a Cincinnati newspaper shortly after the Civil War.
Scathing: Former slave Jordan Anderson (above) wrote a satirical letter in 1865 to his old master after he was asked to return to work for him. He wrote the letter with the help of Valentine Winters (below).
Treasured as a social document, praised as a masterpiece of satire, Anderson’s letter has been anthologized and published all over the world.
Historians teach it, and the letter turns up occasionally on a blog or on Facebook. Humorist Andy Borowitz read the letter recently and called it, in an email to The Associated Press, ‘something Twain would have been proud to have written’.