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How Jourdon Anderson Understood Justice

Berlin, Ira, et al. Slaves No More: Three Essays on Emancipation and the Civil War. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1992.

Blight, David W. A Slave No More: Two Men Who Escaped to Freedom, Including Their Own Narratives of Emancipation. Reprint ed. New York: Mariner, 2009.

CENTRAL QUESTIONS: How can I seek justice on behalf of another person? On behalf of myself?

Post or project this definition of justice (as a civic virtue): Standing for equally applied rules and making sure everyone obeys them.

Ask: Have you ever wished you had said or done something in response to someone’s words or actions, but thought of just the right words or action when it was too late to do or say it? Allow time for brief discussion.

Introduce a “quick-write” using the following prompt: Describe a time you either witnessed or experienced an injustice. What happened? How did you respond? Are you satisfied with how you responded? Why or why not?

Assign students to groups of 3-4 and have students discuss and compare how they responded in their respective situations. Have them compare and discuss any regrets. After they have had some time to discuss, ask: Does having at least one other person with you help you to address injustice? Why?

As a large group, discuss: Why can it be helpful to have others join in addressing unjust situations?

Transition to the Jourdan Anderson narrative and letter, telling students that in 1865, a man who had fled injustice had an opportunity to say some things he had previously not said to his oppressor. As you read about him, pay attention to the people along the way who stood alongside him in ways that may seem small to us now. And think about what character traits it required for Mr. Anderson to say what he did.

The optional introductory activity above is designed to support you in the classroom. However, the primary narratives and photos in the section that follows can be used with or without this introduction.