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); W. McFeely, Yankee Stepfather: General O. O. Howard and the Freedmen (1968).

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References in periodicals archive ?
If a permanent Freedmen's Bureau was managed in the way the contemporaneous Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) was, blacks were probably better off with their ex-masters.
For example, in 1865, shortly after Congress established the Freedmen's Bureau, over one thousand freedmen petitioned the Bureau to appoint as Lincoln County agent a local man who had proven himself sympathetic to their needs.
As Du Bois writes in his historical reevaluation of the Freedmen's Bureau in The Souls of Black Folk, "the very name of the Bureau stood for a thing in the South which for two centuries better men had refused even to argue, - that life amid free Negroes was simply unthinkable, the maddest of experiments"; thus, it "was destined .
Simms had left Woodlands--"abandoned" would be the word employed by the Freedmen's Bureau's sub-commissioner Beecher--in the care of a Mrs.
The most significant fact about this period is that the Freedmen's Bureau assisted only 0.5 percent of the four million freed Blacks.
His investigation of the culture of Nacogdoches covers a great variety of topics, beginning with an examination of the Reconstruction era that includes information on the economic impact of the war based largely on the diary of .lames Harper Starr, a prominent local physician and planter; relations between whites and blacks derived from the papers of the Freedmen's bureau; and a story concerning the arrest of two state policemen that comes from Democratic newspapers and the memory of local whites.
Scholars in recent years have mined a vast documentary archive provided by Freedmen's Bureau records, Union army reports, state and federal judicial and legislative hearings, and reams of newsprint from across the political spectrum, to portray the hopeful assumption of rights and privileges by African Americans in the face of violent opposition.
Desperation, familiarity with people and surroundings at the old places coupled with reunion of many lost loved ones, as well as the urgings of Freedmen's Bureau agents--all contributed to the return of most of the freedmen to areas at or near their rural origins.
Had we had [white troops] instead of negro troops, neither this riot, nor the many lawless acts preceding it during the past six months, would have occurred." The superintendent of the Memphis Freedmen's Bureau, Major General Benjamin P.
Anyone who doubts this need only read the records (plantation records, Freedmen's Bureau records, census records) which tell us that the Black family was whole in spirit and in fact until the beginning of the 50-year Depression (except World War II and the Korean War) in the 1930s.
Congressional passage of the Civil Rights and Freedmen's Bureau bills of 1866 over President Andrew Johnson's vetoes added substance to the promise of freedom, but the rapidly evolving political landscape exposed the Thirteenth Amendment's severe limitations as a blueprint for citizenship in the post-slavery era.
In 1867 he gathered an outlaw band that fluctuated in size and extended his assaults to include blacks, Freedmen's Bureau agents, and Federal soldiers who sought to control violence along the Texas Arkansas border.