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Letters to the Past


United State History 12th Grade

The materials that the students will need from the teacher in order to complete this lesson are: Maryland Lighthouse Keeper to a Baltimore Judge To My Old Master, Colonel P.H. Anderson, Big Spring, Tennessee Letter Chart scaffold with questions and texts

This particular lesson would take place in a single 1-hour and 15-minute class session. This lesson would be placed within a larger unit, or chapter, in which the student would be studying the American Civil War.

Big Question
How do the different perspectives from these documents support or refute the common beliefs regarding slave-owners, or former slave-owners, as hostile and abusive men?

At the completion of this lesson the students will: Understand the varying perspectives within the time period. (i.e. not all slaves disliked their owners, even after being freed, not all white people in the South backed slavery, etc.) Have a better understanding of the treatment of freed slaves in Border/Union States and Confederate States. Understand the feelings of freed slaves toward their previous owners and/or their fellow citizens, particularly former abolitionists (like Thom. Davis and Judge Hugh Bond)

SS.USH.1.3 2007 Describe controversies pertaining to slavery and abolitionism.

1. Students will receive Thomas Davis letter to Judge Hugh Bond first. They will be asked to read it silently to themselves. (7-10 min) After reading the letter they will fill out the questions chart on the following page. (7-10 min) Upon completing steps 1 & 2, the students will receive the letter written by Jourdon Anderson and complete the same two previous steps. (15-20 min) The students will then form groups of 3-4 to compare and contrast their responses to the worksheet questions for 4-7 minutes. (7-10) After sharing their responses, we will discuss their answers as a class. (7-10 min) With the discussion in number 5 students should be well ready to begin the RAFT writing prompts, complete as homework if necessary. (15-20 min)




5. 6.

Letters to the Past

Students will complete a RAFT writing prompt either in class, or for homework. They will write one of the following prompts. Write a speech as though you are Jourdon, who has just recently been emancipated. You are speaking in front of a large crowd of both whites and blacks discussing your perception of freedom and what it means to you. Write a letter as though you are Thomas Davis, at the time that Jourdons letter was written and you are writing to yourself when you wrote your letter to Judge Hugh Bond (1865 Thomas Davis writing to 1864 Thomas Davis). Assume that you have heard success stories of recently freed slaves similar to Jourdons. You are writing to encourage your past self to continue to help these recently freed slaves.

Letters to the Past

Thom. Davis Letter to Judge Hugh Bond

Who was the author of this source? In this space, write anything and everything that we know about the author from their letter.

Jourdon Anderson Letter to Former Owner

What interest does this person have in their topic of discussion? Why are they writing this letter?

How were the authors views and positions viewed by those around them? How would the letter change if these views and positions were different?

Why did the author choose to include the details that he did? What details, if any, stand out or vary from most others?

How does this letter help us to answer the Big Question for this lesson?

Letters to the Past

Maryland Lighthouse Keeper to a Baltimore Judge

Sandy Point [Md.] Novr 6th 1864 Sir i wish to impose A few moments on your Valuable time By Speaking to you after this maner I Have bein Living or Rather Staying on the Bay Shore about Seven miles N. East From annapolis in the midts of a people Whose Hearts is Black in treason and a more fearless peopel for Boldly Expressing it Lives not outside of the Hosts that Bare Arms in upholding it Since we the people have Proclaimed that Maryland Should Be free the Most Bitter Hatred has bein Manifested againest the poor Devils that Have Just Escaped from beneath there Lash there actions Since Tusday Last1 Indicates to me that there is all Ready Orginized Bands Prowling apon Horse Back around the Country armed with Revolvers and Horse Whips threatning to Shoot every Negroe that gives Back the first word after they Lacerate his flesh with the Whip i have bein told By Several Pearsons that a man By the name of Nick Phips on Last Wesnsday the first Sun That Rose apon the [wrech] in hes fredom after years of Bondage took in the Seller of Tom Boons the Post Master of St Margrets a negroe Woman stript her and with a Cow Hyde Lasarated her flesh untill the Blood ozed from every cut and She with in a Month of giveing Burth to a child She appeared Before Court with the Blood Still Streaming from her To Cover his guilt he ivents a Charge She is thrown in prson and he goes free the Same parties caught a Man By the name of Foster Eight Miles from annapolis hand cuffed him and Drove him before them and they on Horse With Such Rapidity that when he got to Severen Ferry he fell apon the Beach Exausted Covered with foam and this Man was Born free this mans offence was [to say] that he nor no wife of his Should be Treated in that maner without avenging it. What i have bein trying to get at is this Saml Richardson has taken to annapolis four Childern of one of his Slaves apon the face of the Mothers Ojections in court he has had them Bound to him after She stating that all the cloth they had on were By her after Night there is a woman down heare By the name Yewel She is allso Demanding of the wiman She has turned without a stich of winters clothing all there childen to be bound to her When she cannot get Bread for her Self On friday there was upwards of hundred young Neagroes on the ferry with there old Masters draged away forseble from there parents for the purpose of Haveing them Bound a number of other cases i could cite that i Will Not Bother you with In the Name of Humanity is there no Redress for those poor ignorant down troden Wreches. Is this or is it not Involuntarey Slavery you may juge what for peopels they are for ever cent worth i purchase i have to get in Baltimore they will neather Lend give nor Sell me any thing not even a ho[r]se to go for a Doctr if my wife to be confined unfortunatly that acurs every Eleven or Twelve Month's I would not stay heare if i could possible get away unkel Sam has got me stuck down heare on three hundred and fifty a year you may Juge how much i save out of that there is five Rooms in the house and each one you can pick up three or four Children I am the only union man within ten miles of my Residence you may guess the feelings of my neighbours towards me Some folks in Baltimoe to see this Letter would hint that it was a fathers interest, manifested in young darkies but it not so every one of them are Jett Black and every knot of wool that groes on there Heads Both ends groes in there Schull therefore there is no anglow Saxon in them Yours [&c] Thos B Davis

Letters to the Past

Dayton, Ohio, August 7, 1865 To My Old Master, Colonel P. H. Anderson Big Spring, Tennessee Sir: I got your letter and was glad to find you had not forgotten Jourdon, and that you wanted me to come back and live with you again, promising to do better for me than anybody else can. 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 Col. 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. It would do me good to go back to the dear old home again and see Miss Mary and Miss Martha and Allen, Esther, Green, and Lee. Give my love to them all, and tell them I hope we will meet in the better world, if not in this. I would have come back to see you all when I was working in Nashville, but one of the neighbors told me Henry intended to shoot me if he ever got a chance. I want to know particularly what the good chance is you propose to give me. I am doing tolerably well here; I get $25 a month, with victuals and clothing; have a comfortable home for Mandy (the folks here call her Mrs. Anderson), and the children, Milly, Jane and Grundy, go to school and are learning well; the teacher says Grundy has a head for a preacher. They go to Sunday-School, and Mandy and me attend church regularly. We are kindly treated; sometimes we overhear others saying, "Them colored people were slaves" down in Tennessee. The children feel hurt when they hear such remarks, but I tell them it was no disgrace in Tennessee to belong to Col. Anderson. Many darkies would have been proud, as I used to was, to call you master. Now, if you will write and say what wages you will give me, I will be better able to decide whether it would be to my advantage to move back again. As to my freedom, which you say I can have, there is nothing to be gained on that score, as I got my freepapers in 1864 from the Provost-Marshal-General of the Department at Nashville. Mandy says she would be afraid to go back without some proof that you are sincerely 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 thirty-two years and Mandy twenty years. At $25 a month for me, and $2 a week for Mandy, our earnings would amount to $11,680. Add to this the interest for the time our wages has 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 Adams 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. Here I draw my wages every Saturday night, but in Tennessee there was never any pay day for the negroes any more than for the horses and cows. 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.

Letters to the Past

P.S. -- Say howdy to George Carter, and thank him for taking the pistol from you when you were shooting at me. From your old servant, Jourdon Anderson

Letters to the Past

Letters to the Past

In this lesson, I tackle the ideas surrounding perspective taking and empathy. Throughout the students readings of the two letters, they will be completing a graphical organizer (scaffold) that will guide them into the direction of developing this historical perspective and empathy. The questions are designed to get students to think about not only the authors and their audiences, but their purposes for writing, the tone that they utilize in their letters, and then I ask them to interpret why they wrote the way that they did. In addition to the students implementing this type of thinking through the guided questions on the scaffold, I have included a culminating writing assessment for the unit. In order to successfully complete this writing assignment the students will be required to take on the role and perspective of an individual of that time period. As I know from experience, learning historical empathy and perspective taking is not an easy task; however, as Barton and Levstik point out, we cannot view the past through the lens of the present or else we can never truly understand it. This lesson utilizes two letters, which the students will be analyzing individually. The first is my microhistory artifact, a letter written in 1864 by Thomas Davis to the Baltimore Judge Hugh Bond. The second letter I discovered in Social Education magazine was written in 1865 by a former slave asking his former slave owner if he could move back to his plantation and be monetarily compensated. I chose these materials because they complimented each other so well. On the one hand, you get the perspective of a white abolitionist advocating for the better treatment of slaves and the other depicts a former slave asking to move back under his master to work. Both of these letters advocate for ideas that more than likely will stand in opposition, or at least question, their previous beliefs regarding abolitionists, slaves, and slave owners and all the relationships in between. I had considered using letters from the Works Progress Administrations slave narratives, but that would have expanded my lesson beyond a single day, which would not have been necessary. Upon reading the two letters individually, the students will complete, as previously mentioned, as graphical organizer that was designed to encourage the type of historical empathy and perspective taking that Barton and Levstik speak to. In addition, students will complete a type of writing assignment call a RAFT. This stands for Role, Audience, Format, and Topic. Students will choose one of the two prompts listed above and complete said writing assessment either in class or for homework. Problems that I foresee with this lesson particularly would spark from the inexperience that students would possess with regards to historical empathy and perspective taking. As mentioned, I struggled with this concept and implementing this concept into my own thinking, so I know that it is not an easy task. If students choose to go about this simply writing in a similar style to those presented in the letters, then I will know that they struggled with the concepts. Another problem that students might face is with the Thomas Davis letters grammar and syntax, as there are little to no punctuation and arrant capitalized letters. While I did consider revising the source that I would give to students, I think that lack of punctuation adds to the character of the letter. I could not find a way to alter the grammatical aspect of the letter without inevitably altering the tone of the letter. This lesson is pertinent to the development of historical empathy and perspective taking within my students. Without these ideas of historical empathy and perspective taking, students will fail to develop a lens other than their own with which to not only view history, but to view actions taken in the world today. I

Letters to the Past

hope that students come away with the basic understanding that events in history do not occur within a vacuum, that these events and the people involved had view and beliefs different from our own.

Letters to the Past