Three Letters That Former Slaves Sent To Their Masters

Published February 15, 2017
Updated April 12, 2020

Vilet Lester

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Special Collections Library at Duke University

Little is known about Vilet Lester other than the fact that on August 29, 1857, she wrote a letter to her former mistress, Patsey Patterson. Lester was enslaved by a new owner, James B. Lester, when she sent the message.

“I wish to know what has ever become of my presus little girl,” she wrote, noting that she had not heard from her daughter since she had been moved.

She went on to explain that her new owner “being a man of reason and feeling wishes to grant my trubled breast that much gratification,” was willing to buy her daughter if they could locate her.

The letter is notable because of the familiar way in which Lester addresses her “Loving Miss Patsy” — almost as if the two were dear friends.

This shows the complex relationships that often developed in a system engrained so deeply into Southern culture at the time. A system in which white children and black children grew up together before understanding the social structures dividing them.

Full text:

Georgia Bullock Co August 29th 1857

My Loving Miss Patsy

I hav long bin wishing to imbrace this presant and pleasant opertunity of unfolding my Seans and fealings Since I was constrained to leav my Long Loved home and friends which I cannot never gave my Self the Least promis of returning to. I am well and this is Injoying good hlth and has ever Since I Left Randolph. whend I left Randolf I went to Rockingham and Stad there five weaks and then I left there and went to Richmon virgina to be Sold and I Stade there three days and was bought by a man by the name of Groover and braught to Georgia and he kept me about Nine months and he being a trader Sold me to a man by the name of Rimes and he Sold me to a man by the name of Lester and he has owned me four years and Says that he will keep me til death Siperates us without Some of my old north Caroliner friends wants to buy me again. my Dear Mistress I cannot tell my fealings nor how bad I wish to See youand old Boss and Mss Rahol and Mother. I do not [k]now which I want to See the worst Miss Rahol or mother I have thaugh[t] that I wanted to See mother but never befour did I [k]no[w] what it was to want to See a parent and could not. I wish you to gave my love to old Boss Miss Rahol and bailum and gave my manafold love to mother brothers and sister and pleas to tell them to Right to me So I may here from them if I cannot See them and also I wish you to right to me and Right me all the nuse. I do want to now whether old Boss is Still Living or now and all the rest of them and I want to [k]now whether balium is maried or no. I wish to [k]now what has Ever become of my Presus little girl. I left her in goldsborough with Mr. Walker and I have not herd from her Since and Walker Said that he was going to Carry her to Rockingham and gave her to his Sister and I want to [k]no[w] whether he did or no as I do wish to See her very mutch and Boss Says he wishes to [k]now whether he will Sell her or now and the least that can buy her and that he wishes a answer as Soon as he can get one as I wis himto buy her an my Boss being a man of Reason and fealing wishes to grant my trubled breast that mutch gratification and wishes to [k]now whether he will Sell her now. So I must come to a close by Escribing my Self you long loved and well wishing play mate as a Servant until death

Vilet Lester
of Georgia
to Miss Patsey Padison
of North Caroliner

My Bosses Name is James B Lester and if you Should think a nuff of me to right me which I do beg the faver of you as a Sevant direct your letter to Millray Bullock County Georgia. Pleas to right me So fare you well in love.

For more, visit the Duke University Special Collections Library website.

Next, read the story of a slave who escaped George Washington’s estate. Then learn about five incredibly influential former slaves.

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