Laurence Fishburne Reads Humorously Deadpan Letter by a Freed Slave to His Former Master

Talent actor Laurence Fishburne read aloud, using his wonderful Tennessean accent, a powerful, and at times, humorously deadpan letter from freed slave Jourdon Anderson of Dayton, Ohio, to his former master Colonel P.H.¬†Anderson of Big Spring, Tennessee. This was made in reply to a letter from the Colonel asking for Jourdan and his family to return and help him revive his failing plantation. Jourdan replied that he’d consider it if the gracious Colonel would kindly pay him and his wife Mandy back wages still owed to them.

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 thirty-two years, and Mandy twenty years. At twenty-five dollars a month for me, and two dollars a week for Mandy, our earnings would amount to eleven thousand six hundred and eighty dollars.

Jourdan also expressed his amazement that the Colonel was still a free man.

I have often felt uneasy about you. I thought the Yankees would have hung you long before this, for harboring Rebs they found at your house. I suppose they never heard about your going to Colonel Martin’s to kill the Union soldier that was left by his company in their stable. Although you shot at me twice before I left you, I did not want to hear of your being hurt, and am glad you are still living. 

Fishburne, who effortlessly captured Jourdan’s amusing nuance, performed this at a 2018 Letters Live event at The Town Hall in New York City.

Lori Dorn
Lori Dorn

Lori is a Laughing Squid Contributing Editor based in New York City who has been writing blog posts for over a decade. She also enjoys making jewelry, playing guitar, taking photos and mixing craft cocktails. Lori can be found posting on Threads and sharing photos on Instagram.