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.


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 ?
Without the records compiled by Freedmen's Bureau agents, our understanding of the private lives of Southerners would be dim, indeed.
Gregory, a Union officer and Assistant Commissioner of the Freedmen's Bureau for the Texas area, has been vacant since 1980 and is located in Freedman's Town Historical District, in Houston's Fourth Ward.
Too Great a Burden to Bear: The Struggle and Failure of the Freedmen's Bureau in Texas examines the character, qualifications, ideals and principles of those agency members who worked in Texas.
The Freedmen's Bureau, established in 1865 to extend relief to "all refugees, and all freedmen," and the Resettlement Administration of the 1930s both failed to produce long-term success.
Working as a unit of the Department of War, the Freedmen's Bureau could set up education programs, allocate land the federal government had claimed as "abandoned" during the war and help to establish labor agreements.
Johnson vetoed the renewal of the Freedmen's Bureau as well as the Civil Rights Act of 1866, and he opposed the 14th Amendment, managing in the process to alienate more or less every Republican in Congress, including important moderates like Senator Lyman Trumbull (Illinois) and Representative John Bingham (Ohio).
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.