On Two Hemispheres: Bits from the Life Story of Lewis G. Jordan, as Told by Himself.
“Here is a man who came out of slavery without a name….” Cynthia Cooper, great granddaughter of L.G. Jordan
Scarce. Autobiography of Lewis Garnett Jordan (1853–1939) which describes his life of enslavement before the War and just after.
Born in Lauderdale County, Mississippi, Jordan’s childhood was traumatizing. His father, a Spaniard who passed for a white man, was absent. His mother, like Jordan, was enslaved. As a boy —unnamed and known only as “Nig”— he was struck by the plantation owner’s wife for committing a small infraction:
“Mother, like an enraged lioness collared her mistress and nearly choked her to death. Of course she was severely flogged by the master for it, but it took nearly the remaining afternoon to do so. From that time until freedom came the master never attempted to whip her without a gun near at hand and being sure that she was well tied. The sight of her bleeding back and her mournful cries for mercy and pity as the blows from a cowhide rained on her bare back will always remain in my memory.”
During the Civil War, Jordan worked in a Confederate camp with his master who had been compelled to enlist. When victorious Union soldiers came to the plantation, the enslaved men and women were “hidden so as not to fall into the hands of the Yankees, who were pictured to as dreadful orgies to be shunned at all hazards…” When the soldiers came again Jordan hid in fear. His mother was dismayed. She had been prepared to escape with her son, who she could not find, and she knew that the soldiers could have taken them to freedom.
“Most of the Union soldiers had been mustered out of service” when a second opportunity arose for the Jordans to escape enslavement. It was learned that some Union troops were still encamped in Meridian, Mississippi. Jordan writes that his mother had never taken recompense for her years as a slave, but on the night of their escape, Jordan was instructed to steal a pair of shoes for her “to wear to freedom.” In the pouring rain, wading in creeks and lagoons and evading bloodhounds, the duo finally achieved their liberty. It was in this Union “contraband camp” where Jordan was finally able to leave slavery behind.
Jordan was still without a name when a camp school teacher asked him for his. Not wanting to be identified as “Nig” Jordan spontaneously gave the first names of two soldiers (“Lewis” and “Jordan”) who had been kind to him, thus giving himself a name and having a name for the first time in his life. (Later in life, Jordan added “Garnett” as his middle name, after reading an account of the life of the Rev. Henry Highland Garnett in The Rising Sun by William Wells Brown.)
A year after the War’s end, in 1866, Jordan’s aunt was kidnapped by a former slaveowner and never seen again. His sister was kidnapped and his mother was forcefully carried off by a white officer in the U.S.C.T. to be a wet-nurse, separated from her son. Jordan was sent to live with another officer from the 52nd Colored Regiment. This man treated him cruelly and Jordan ran away.
Jordan’s narrative continues apace. Eventually, he became baptized on a plantation once owned by Jefferson Davis and he was reunited with his mother. Jordan was licensed to preach in 1873 and ordained in 1874. His first ministry was located in Yazoo City, Mississippi. Subsequently, he pastored at churches in Texas and finally at Philadelphia’s Union Baptist Church.
Other portions of Jordan’s text concerns his missionary endeavors in Africa, brief biographical sketches of important Baptists, his education, his religious beliefs, and various events and experiences and people whom he met in his life. The book’s interesting Introduction was written by Adam Clayton Powell, Sr., pastor of the Abyssinian Baptist Church, New York’s oldest Black church.
Description: On Two Hemispheres: Bits from the Life Story of Lewis G. Jordan, as Told by Himself.
[N.p. 1935?]. 80 pages, errata slip + 3 plate leaves. First edition. Original pale blue printed wrappers foxed and stained; lower right corner of text block gently bumped.
Brignano —“A Baptist minister and missionary, Jordan describes his slave life in Mississippi, and his religious work in Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, Philadelphia, Africa, and Europe.” Not in Work. Not in Blockson Catalogue. Ref. Cooper, Cynthia. The African Americans Many Rivers to Cross accessed online.