Doing right by past and present alike

Gentle Readers, you should not miss Ta-Nehisi Coates’ lengthy piece on the history and persistence of white supremacy in the American housing market, its consequences, and what we could do about it if we decided as a nation that we cared enough about those things. He takes as his example how another nation with a horrifying, atrocity-laden history of mistreating some of its citizens made an effort to do right by them.

Reading it reminded me strongly of Jourdan Anderson’s letter answering his former owner. The owner wanted him to come back to the plantation to work and Jourdan agreed, subject to some reasonable conditions:

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. 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 Adams’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.


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