Freedmen's Bureau


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Freedmen's Bureau,

in U.S. history, a federal agency, formed to aid and protect the newly freed blacks in the South after the Civil War. Established by an act of Mar. 3, 1865, under the name "bureau of refugees, freedmen, and abandoned lands," it was to function for one year after the close of the war. A bill extending its life indefinitely and greatly increasing its powers was vetoed (Feb. 19, 1866) by President Andrew Johnson, who viewed the legislation as an unwarranted (and unconstitutional) continuation of war powers in peacetime. The veto marked the beginning of the President's long and unsuccessful fight with the radical Republican Congress over ReconstructionReconstruction,
1865–77, in U.S. history, the period of readjustment following the Civil War. At the end of the Civil War, the defeated South was a ruined land. The physical destruction wrought by the invading Union forces was enormous, and the old social and economic
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. In slightly different form, the bill was passed over Johnson's veto on July 16, 1866. Organized under the War Dept., with Gen. Oliver O. HowardHoward, Oliver Otis,
1830–1909, Union general in the Civil War, founder of Howard Univ., b. Leeds, Maine, grad. Bowdoin College, 1850, and West Point, 1854. Made a brigadier general of volunteers (Sept.
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 as its commissioner, and thus backed by military force, the bureau was one of the most powerful instruments of Reconstruction. Howard divided the ex-slave states, including the border slave states that had remained in the Union, into 10 districts, each headed by an assistant commissioner. The bureau's work consisted chiefly of five kinds of activity—relief work for both blacks and whites in war-stricken areas, regulation of black labor under the new conditions, administration of justice in cases concerning the blacks, management of abandoned and confiscated property, and support of education for blacks. In its relief and educational activities the bureau compiled an excellent record, which, however, was too often marred by unprincipled agents, both military and civilian, in the local offices. Its efforts toward establishing the freed blacks as landowners were nil. To a great degree the bureau operated as a political machine, organizing the black vote for the Republican party; its political activities made it thoroughly hated in the South. When, under the congressional plan of Reconstruction, new state governments based on black suffrage were organized in the South (with many agents holding various offices), the work of the Freedmen's Bureau was discontinued (July 1, 1869). Its educational activities, however, were carried on for another three years.

Bibliography

See P. S. Peirce, The Freedmen's Bureau (1904); L. J. Webster, The Operation of the Freedmen's Bureau in South Carolina (1916, repr. 1970); G. R. Bentley, A History of the Freedmen's Bureau (1955, repr. 1970); M. Abbott, The Freedmen's Bureau in South Carolina (1967).

References in periodicals archive ?
Named after Civil War general and post-war Freedmen's Bureau Director Oliver O.
to be contending that the Freedmen's Bureau Laws did not
After the war, the federal government used the building as the North Carolina headquarters for the Freedmen's Bureau, which helped former slaves establish new lives.
Influence of Military Rule and the Freedmen's Bureau on Reconstruction in Virginia, 1865-1870.
Douglass did defend an active role for the federal government, including subsidized land grants by the Freedmen's Bureau and universal public education for African Americans.
The author focuses on the work of a unique institution, the Freedmen's Bureau, that was the main civilian engine of the Northern effort to bring political, economic, and social development to the backward, "failed state" that was the post-helium South.
He also discusses conventions in the Southern states that were required to draft constitutions consistent with the amendment; Supreme Court jurisprudence of the Second and Fourteenth Amendments, including Ku Klux Klan trials and the Cruikshank case; and twentieth century developments regarding the incorporation of Bill of Rights guarantees in the Fourteenth Amendment, the Court's pronouncements on the Second Amendment, and the role of the Freedmen's Bureau Act.
One major exception to this emphasis on the twentieth century is Pimpare's ground-breaking discussion of an "African American welfare state," which counts the institutions of slavery, the Freedmen's Bureau, Jim Crow laws, and prisoner labor as part of this welfare state (168).
For example, a user can look through military records from the Civil War as well as slave narratives and records from the Freedmen's Bureau or the Freedman's Bank.
Indeed, when the Fourteenth Amendment was ratified, Congress had already created a race based affirmative action program--the Freedmen's Bureau, which afforded special benefits to freed slaves.
The federal government also establishes the Freedmen's Bureau to provide assistance.