What Is Freedom?

This racist cartoon (which you can click on to enlarge) is from the 1866 Pennsylvania governor’s race, in which the position of the Republican candidate, John W. Geary, is being attacked by Hiester Clymer, his Democratic opponent. Clymer was in favor of white supremacist policies and the defunding of the Freedman’s Bureau, which attempted to look after the affairs of newly freed blacks. Geary stood in favor of tax dollars being used to fund the bureau. Geary ultimately won the election.

In your web comment, contrast this depiction of the black dependency on a federal agency to this 1865 letter written by a recently freed slave, Jourdan Anderson, who is replying to his former master who wants Anderson to come back and work for him. Put these two sources in dialogue with each other. What are the different ideas of black freedom that are conveyed by these two sources?

For a sophisticated overview of how historians currently think about what freedom really meant for emancipated slaves, check out this essay on the New York Times excellent DISUNION blog by City College history professor, Greg Downs.

Published in: on December 16, 2011 at 1:51 pm  Comments (12)  

12 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. The differences between the racist cartoon and the 1865 letter are the depiction of how black people will be living under The Freedman Bureau. In the racist cartoon the artist is using propaganda to convince other people who share the same idea as he did, that The Freedman Bureau was more than what the black man needed after being freed. That the funds from The Freedman Bureau will place the black man over white people and that sooner or later white people would be working for black people.

    The letter written shows the more humble side of what was happening during that time. Blacks that were recently freed wanted nothing more than the best for them and their families. As you can see in the letter, the former slave wanted his two daughters to have an education.

  2. The advertisement material for Hiester Clymer Governor’s campaign illustrates, what he believes, to be the downfall of the white race – support of Freedman Bureau. The Freedman Bureau purpose was to help emancipated, colored, people by providing aid for clothing, housing, and schools, to name a few. According to the illustration, Hiester Clymer opposed this program because it compensated colored people to do nothing – while white people had to work and pay taxes.

    Jourdan Anderson’s letter to Colonel P.H. Anderson depicts a different perspective on Freedman Bureau. The letter contains proof of being anything but an idle colored. Jourdan wrote a logically organized letter witch hints of a working family living in a moderate comeliness community.

    Hiester Clymer governor campaign’s cartoon is a propaganda used to get anti colored support. The cartoon had no evidence of anything of its point being true so, it relied on persuading with emotions.

  3. I understand that the best way to win is to place blame and slander on your opponent. The sadder part is that by creating this advertisement Clymer is placing the blame on his self. In this advertisment the freedman is supposedly sitting on his behind eating pies, stews and fish balls living off of the bureau. My question is, and even if the newly freed men did in fact sit back and eat while someone else took care of things, so what ! Why is that a problem? They spent their lives cooking, cleaning, and taking of white people. If some group of white want to pitch in and help them so be it. According to the letter that Jourdon Anderson wrote, the freedmen where in fact doing the opposite. Jourdan spoke about he and his wife working and his children going to school. That doesn’t sound like the words of a lazy black man. To get paid for his labor instead of slaving away for little to nothing to eat and harsh conditions for his children, is being lazy? Lazy is having the indecency create the poster in such a manner as to depict a slave as lazy, when I’m sure that Clymer had a slave wipe his behind from the day he came out of his mother.

  4. Jourdan Anderson addressed letter to his master reveals how he used to live while being a slave. He is not quite convinced on his return to live with his master because his life have changed in many good ways. He has the freedom and the right to have an education. He is working and getting paid as he expected, he seems to enjoy it. Anderson wants the best for him and his love ones and asked his master if he really want him back to pay him for the amount he has been working for him, about thirty two years. For the master, this is a big amount to pay, he surely would think about it. It’s not easy for this freed black to go back where he grew up. In this two sources we find that their still racism even after the civil war. It’s very hard for freed blacks but they know like Anderson, freedom and opportunities in the north are more to their advantage than the south.

  5. Although the racist cartoon and the letter written by a freed slave both portray life under the Freedman Bureau they have two completely different views on the life of a freed slave. The racist cartoon shows a freed slave relaxing while the white men work. The racist cartoon tries to illustrate that the Freedman Bureau is the life of luxury for freed slaves and is not beneficial to white men. The letter on the other hand is more realistic. Even though slaves were freed they still work just as hard. The only difference is that they are getting paid. Freed slaves also have better oppurtunities such as obtaining an education.

  6. The purpose of this article warn the rich white man that soon your money will be going to your free slave and soon you will be working for him if you continue to support this bureau. I can related this article to the Salem witch trails where the white man is now afraid that free blacks would do better then them and start taking over what they will have, so they come up with this type of news to try to make people get rid of this funding. The letter talks about how all the slaves are getting a chance to start over and begin a way of life in a step by step process to fit in with society. But mean while whites think that it will be like wining the lottery for them from this funding.

  7. I believe this was not only a political pitch but one to scare white men at the time with propaganda. To scare them to think if you vote for my republican counter-part this will be your future.To add more salt to the wound the black man is drawn with a monkey face to hit white men with a strong subconcious and concious message, .Nothing more could scare white men more then a word where reverse racism could exist. However we know that things were nothing like this were slaves were emancipated. Although they were free they had to find somewhere to sleep. Even years later they still faced harsh racial backlash.

  8. The cartoon Clymer used to attack Geary and the letter written by the freed slave Jourdan Anderson, depicts two different views of the effect of the Freedman’s Bureau. According to Geary, in Clymer’s point of view, the Freedman’s Bureau would perhaps make the freed slaves superior to white people. The cartoon displays the black man laying back without a care while the whites are working hard. It basically showed that it allowed the blacks to idle at the expense of the whites which actually wasn’t true.
    In the letter written by Jourdan Anderson, the point of view of the Freedman’s Bureau is given directly from the freed slave. He didn’t mind working just as long as he was being paid for his labor. His plan was not to idle as the cartoon displayed. He only wanted his former master to treat him, and Mary which I assume is his wife better. He wants to be reimbursed for all of the labor he had done for his former master to return. You can also tell that he is an honest man because he calculates how much he is owed and tells the master he can deduct the money for the clothes and doctor’s appointment. I think that the Freedman’s Bureau was for the betterment of the blacks unlike the cartoon which of course would be the views of a white supremacist.

  9. Both the racial cartoon as well as the letter that was written by a free slave (Jourdan Anderson) was describing what a former slaves life would be like and is like as a result of the Freedman’s Bureau. The letter and the cartoon has completely two different and opposite views. The cartoon is trying to say that a former slave would reap the benefits of a working white man who is working because he needs to provide for family. While the white man would be hard at work, the freed slave would just sit back and have everything given to him. This cartoon is ridiculous because society during that time refuses to let the idea go that a slave should just be a slave and slaves aren’t owed anything.

    In the letter, it shows nothing about idling a colored man.Anderson was just simply informing his master that he has worked for him for 32 years and this is what his former master has to pay him. The letter stated that under the Freedman’s Bureau, Anderson is actually getting paid for his labor. Anderson proposed that he would come back to work for his old master only if he got paid and his family was treated better. So it goes to show that whether a slave is under the Freedman’s Bureau or not he would be working just as hard.

  10. The depiciton of the african slaves in the cartoon show the racial ways of the white man. How they viewed them as property instead of humans, as if they didnt have emotion. compared to the letter where you see that the former slave isnt fully ignorant to their ways, and writes with compassion and emotion to his former slave master

  11. The cartoon and letter give picture of merciless characters. The only difference is that the race has changed: the cartoon shows freed blacks will rule whites making them work hard all day in poor conditions and essay shows whites doing the same to the blacks.

    The cartoonist fears that the brutal behavior towards the other race will shift from white to blacks. Cartoonist has no idea about the hardships blacks has gone through as it can bee seen in letter where Jourder Andersan says “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.”

    The letter reveals that freed black man is still respectful to his master who had shot twice at Anderson in attempts to kill him before he left. In addition, he is willing to work for his master if master ensures him for his and his family’s safety and reasonable wages. Cartoonist is not justifying blacks instead misleading other whites against freed blacks.

  12. In the political cartoon the Freedman’s Bureau depicts African Americans as lazy, idle and sits down and waits for government funds to support them. It displays the black man relaxing without a care at the same time as the whites are working hard. It showed that the blacks did not work, and depend on their government funds and congress. The point of view of the Freedman’s Bureau is given in the letter written by Jourdan Anderson, directly from the freed slave point of view, he didn’t mind working just as long as he was compensated for all of the labor; his plan was not to be redundant as the cartoon displayed. I believe that the Freedman’s Bureau was for the improving the life of African Americans not what the cartoon illustrate which of course would be the views of a white racist system.

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