United States. Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands

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The Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, usually referred to as simply the Freedmen's Bureau, was a U.S. federal government agency that aided distressed freedmen (freed slaves) in 1865–1869, during the Reconstruction era of the United States. The Freedmen's Bureau Bill, which created the Freedmen's Bureau, was initiated by President Abraham Lincoln and was intended to last for one year after the end of the Civil War. It was passed on March 3, 1865, by Congress to aid former slaves through legal food and housing, oversight, education, health care, and employment contracts with private landowners. It became a key agency during Reconstruction, assisting freed ex-slaves in the South. The Bureau was part of the United States Department of War. Headed by Union Army General Oliver O. Howard, the Bureau was operational from 1865 to 1871. It was disbanded under President Ulysses S. Grant.

From the guide to the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands labor contract MSS. 0230., 1865 June 16, (W.S. Hoole Special Collections Library, The University of Alabama)

The Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, often referred to as the Freedmen's Bureau, was a U.S. federal government agency established by the U.S. Department of War through the Freedmen's Bureau Bill on 3 March 1865. The Freedmen's Bureau became a key agency during Reconstruction assisting freedmen, ex-slaves, in the former Confederate states adjust to their conditions of freedom by providing food, housing, education, health care, and employment. This agency was operational from 1865 to 1872.

From the description of Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands records, 1865-1869. (Georgia Historical Society). WorldCat record id: 538952634

In 1865, the United States War Department created the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, also known as the Freedmans Bureau, in order to assist former slaves in relocating and establishing lives as free men and women. The Bureau remained active until 1868 when President Andrew Jackson ended the agency.

From the description of Indentures for William Arnold and Sally Allison, 1866. (Kentucky Historical Society). WorldCat record id: 191699439

From the description of Indentures for Frank and Mina Harris, 1866. (Kentucky Historical Society). WorldCat record id: 191699432

Sources:

Bethel, Elizabeth. "The Freedmen's Bureau of Alabama." Journal of Southern History XIV (February 1948): 49-92.

Cash, William M. "Alabama Republicans During Reconstruction: Personal Characteristics, Motivations, and Political Activity of Party Activists, 1867-1880." Ph.D. diss. University of Alabama, 1973.

DuBose, John W. Alabama's Tragic Decade: Ten Years of Alabama, 1865-1874. Birmingham, Ala.: Webb Book Co., 1940.

Fleming, Walter L. Civil War and Reconstruction in Alabama. Cleveland, Ohio: Arthur H. Clark Co., 1911.

Owen, Thomas M. History of Alabama and Dictionary of Alabama Biography. Chicago: S. J. Clarke Publishing Co., 1921; reprint, Spartanburg, S.C.: Reprint Co., 1978.

The Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands was established in the U.S. War Dept. by act of Congress on 1865 Mar. 3. The bureau was responsible for all matters relating to refugees, freedmen, and abandoned lands in the war-torn southern states. Brigadier General Wager T. Swayne was appointed assistant commissioner for Ala. in 1865 June and assumed the position the following month when he arrived in Montgomery. He appointed Charles A. Miller as his assistant adjutant general.

The bureau was divided into five departments: (1) abandoned and confiscated lands; (2) records, labor, schools, and supplies; (3) finance; (4) medical; and (5) bounties. Its duties were "to introduce practicable systems of compensated labor...; to provide for the destitute, aged, and sick, in co-operation with the northern aid societies,...; [to provide schools for the refugees and freedmen]; to protect loyal refugees and to assist them in returning to their homes; and to adjudicate [civil disputes involving freedmen]." [Bethel, pp. 50-51] Swayne worked with Governors Lewis E. Parsons and Robert M. Patton to achieve the bureau's objectives through institutions and programs that were already in place. He chose this method for two reasons: (1) cost effectiveness in regard to the personnel and facilities needed if separate systems were established, and (2) a recognition that the changes were more likely to stay in place after the withdrawal of the Army if they were more closely tied to civil government.

In 1867 March presidential reconstruction ended with the passage by Congress of the Reconstruction Acts. The South was divided into five military districts. General John Pope was placed in charge of the 3rd Military District that included Ala., Ga., and Fla. Swayne continued in command of the district of Ala.

One of Swayne's new duties under the Reconstruction Acts was to register eligible persons to vote and to see that information about registering and elections was diseminated among the freedmen. It was virtually impossible to prevent this activity from being politicized, and Swayne became deeply involved in recruitment for the Republican party. In 1868 Feb. the Bureau provided for an election of state officials and congressional representatives. These elected officials were not permitted to take office, however, until 1868 July when the state approved a new constitution and ratified the 14th Amendment. Governor Patton had been permitted to remain in the governor's seat even though he was only a figurehead under the Reconstruction Acts. On 1868 July Governor-elect William H. Smith was appointed to the governorship.

Pope and Swayne, accused of using their positions in the 3rd Military District to achieve political gains, were removed in 1867 Dec. Pope was replaced by General George G. Meade. Swayne was succeeded by Brevet-Brigadier General Julius Hayden. In 1868 Mar. Hayden was replaced by Brevet-Brigadier General O. L. Shepherd who was in turn replaced by Brevet Lieutenant Colonel Edwin Beecher in 1868 Aug. Beecher remained in charge of the bureau's activities until it was discontinued (with the exception of the education programs) in 1869.

From the description of Agency history record. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 145410074

Archival Resources
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referencedIn Beecher, James Chaplin, 1828-1886. Papers, 1850-1946 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
creatorOf Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands labor contract MSS. 0230., 1865 June 16 W.S. Hoole Special Collections Library, The University of Alabama
referencedIn Fluvanna County (Va.) Register of Children of Colored Persons whose Parents had ceased to cohabit which the Father recognizes to be his, 1866 Feb. 27 Library of Virginia
referencedIn Smyth County (Va.) Register of Colored Persons cohabiting together as Husband and Wife, 1866 Feb. 27. Library of Virginia
referencedIn Weld, Manchester Ward. Papers, 1847-[187-]. Duke University Libraries, Duke University Library; Perkins Library
creatorOf United States. Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands. Records of the Superintendent of Education for the state of Alabama, 1865-1870 (inclusive), [microform]. Yale University Library
referencedIn Deas, Elias Horry, 1803-1867. Elias Horry Deas papers, 1845 July-1867 Apr. 19; (bulk, 1865-1867). University of South Carolina, System Library Service, University Libraries
referencedIn Augusta County (Va.) Register of Colored Persons cohabiting together as Husband and Wife, 27th February 1866 Library of Virginia
referencedIn Ayer, Frederick, d. 1867. Frederick Ayer papers, 1865-1866. Atlanta University Center, Robert W. Woodruff Library
referencedIn Barnes, Samuel Denham, 1839-1916. Samuel Denham Barnes papers, 1791-1872. Library of Congress
creatorOf United States. Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands. Records of the Assistant Commissioner for the state of Mississippi, 1865-1872 (inclusive), [microform]. Yale University Library
referencedIn Culpeper County (Va.) Register of Marriages (Colored) Under Act of Assembly of Virginia, 1866 Library of Virginia
referencedIn Richmond County (Va.) Register of Colored Persons Cohabitating Together as Husband and Wife on 27th February 1866 Library of Virginia
referencedIn Carter, Champe, 1839-1886. Champe Carter papers, 1825-1889, (bulk 1870-1886). San Jacinto Museum of History
referencedIn Hopkinson, James, Esq. James Hopkinson papers, 1847-1917. University of South Carolina, System Library Service, University Libraries
creatorOf United States. Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands. Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands records, 1865-1869. Georgia Historical Society
referencedIn Gault, Matthew. Correspondence, 1842-1867. Duke University Libraries, Duke University Library; Perkins Library
creatorOf United States. Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands. Records of the Assistant Commissioner for the State of Louisiana, 1865-1869 (inclusive), [microform]. Yale University Library
referencedIn Eaton, William F. William F. Eaton letters, 1865-1866. Maine Historical Society Library
referencedIn Bliss, Robert Lewis. Miscellaneous microfilm collection, undated, [microform]. Alabama Department of Archives and History
referencedIn Swaim, David G., d. 1897. David G. Swaim letters, 1861-1874 [microform]. Western Reserve Historical Society, Research Library
referencedIn Deane, Ernie. Markers and monuments, Arkadelphia, June 1964 [Freedmen's Bureau] [graphic] / Ernie Deane [photographer]. Arkansas History Commission
referencedIn Hale, William Dinsmore, 1836-1915. William D. Hale and family papers, 1819-1914. Minnesota Historical Society Library
referencedIn Henry County (Va.) Register of Colored Persons cohabiting together as Husband and Wife, 1866 Library of Virginia
referencedIn Balloch, George Williamson, b. 1825. Papers, 1865-1902. Moorland-Spingarn Research Center, Howard University
creatorOf United States. Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands. Records of the Assistant Commissioner for the District of Columbia, 1865-1872 (inclusive), [microform]. Yale University Library
referencedIn Augusta County (Va.) Volume of Free Negro and Slave Records, 1866 Library of Virginia
creatorOf United States. Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands. Records of the Assistant Commissioner for the State of Tennessee, 1865-1869 (inclusive), [microform]. Yale University Library
referencedIn Beckwith, T. Stanley, fl. 1847,. Miscellaneous Virginia letters [manuscript] : including 6 letters of the Slater family, 3 Civil War and Reconstruction letters, a letter of William Branch Giles, and a letter pertaining to electromedical machinery, 1827-1867. University of Virginia. Library
referencedIn Vance, Joseph. Freedmen's schools in Albemarle County during Reconstruction [manuscript], 1953. University of Virginia. Library
referencedIn Saye, James H. Papers, 1790-1896. Duke University Libraries, Duke University Library; Perkins Library
referencedIn Bassett, George T., 1840-. George T. Bassett letter book, 1865 July 24-1866 June 19. Millersville University Library, McNairy Library
creatorOf United States. Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands. Records of the Assistant Commissioner for the State of North Carolina, 1865-1870 (inclusive), [microform]. Yale University Library
creatorOf United States. Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands. Indentures for Frank and Mina Harris, 1866. Kentucky Historical Society, Martin F. Schmidt Research Library
referencedIn Hanover County (Va.) Marriage Register of Freedmen living in Hanover County, Virginia, who were married by the Act passed by the Legislature of Virginia, February 27th, 1866 Library of Virginia
referencedIn A Guide to the Warren County (Va.) Register of Colored Persons Cohabitating Together as Husband and Wife on 27th February 1866 Library of Virginia
referencedIn A Guide to Prince Edward County (Va.) Register of Colored Persons cohabiting together as Husband and Wife, 27th February 1866 Library of Virginia
referencedIn P. J. Smalley papers, 1863-1944 (bulk 1887-1912). Minnesota Historical Society
referencedIn Chase, Albert A., b. 1837. Albert A. Chase papers, 1865-1866. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
referencedIn Howard, O. O. (Oliver Otis), 1830-1909. Papers, 1850-ca. 1925, (bulk 1890-1909). Lincoln Memorial University Library, Carnegie-Vincent Library
referencedIn Beecher, James Chaplin, 1828-1886. Papers, 1865-1866. Duke University Libraries, Duke University Library; Perkins Library
referencedIn Humiston, R. F. Scrapbook, 1866-1868. Western Reserve Historical Society, Research Library
creatorOf United States. Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands. [Records of] the Surgeon in Chief for the State of Georgia, 1856-1868. University of Georgia, University of Georgia, Main Library
referencedIn Wagner, George, 1841-1906. George Wagner papers, 1862-1868. Georgia Newspaper Project
referencedIn French family. French family papers, 1831-1945. New York State Historical Documents (Albany, N.Y.)
referencedIn Swain, Samuel Glyde, 1835-1904. Papers, 1864-1866. Wisconsin Veterans Museum Research Center
creatorOf United States. Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands. Letter : Washington, D.C., to L.P. Rowland, Boston, Mass., 1870 Sept. 1. Texas Christian University
referencedIn Charles Alexander Nelson papers, 1850s-1930s New York Public Library. Manuscripts and Archives Division
referencedIn Langston, John Mercer, 1829-1897. Papers of John Mercer Langston [manuscript] 1853-98. University of Virginia. Library
creatorOf United States. Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands. Registers and letters received by the Commissioner of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, 1865-1872 (inclusive), [microform]. Yale University Library
creatorOf United States. Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands. Records of the Assistant Commissioner for the state of Alabama, 1865-1870 (inclusive), [microform]. Yale University Library
creatorOf United States. Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands. Letter : Washington, D.C., to L.P. Rowland, Boston, Mass., 1870 Sept. 1. University of Chicago Library
referencedIn Gillem, Alvan C. (Alvan Cullem), 1830-1875. Letters and general orders, 1864-1869 / Alvan C. Gillem. University of South Carolina, System Library Service, University Libraries
referencedIn Smalley, P. J. (Palemon Jared), 1842-1912. P.J. Smalley papers, 1863-1944 (bulk 1887-1912). Minnesota Historical Society Library
referencedIn Harrison, W. H. (William Henry), 1795?-1878. Letter to Dr. Arthur Lee Brent [manuscript], 1866 February 21. University of Virginia. Library
referencedIn Carlisle family. Carlisle family papers, 1860-1972. University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library
referencedIn Thaddeus Stevens Papers, 1811-1927, (bulk 1850-1868) Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
referencedIn Prince Edward County (Va.) Register of Children of Colored Persons whose Parents had ceased to cohabit which the Father recognizes to be his, 27th February 1866 Library of Virginia
creatorOf Scott, Robert K. (Robert Kingston), 1826-1900. Orders pertaining to courts and freedmen, 1865 June-1866 June. South Carolina Historical Society
creatorOf United States. Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands. Records of the Superintendent of Education for the District of Columbia, 1865-1872 (inclusive), [microform]. Yale University Library
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Allen, Lewis N. T., b. 1840. person
associatedWith Allison, John W. person
associatedWith Allison, Sally. person
associatedWith American Freedman's Union Commission. corporateBody
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associatedWith Arnold, William. person
associatedWith Augusta County (Va.) Circuit Court. corporateBody
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associatedWith Bates, James A. (James Allen), b. ca. 1833. person
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associatedWith Bordis & Co. corporateBody
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associatedWith Brown, Orlando, 1827-1904. person
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associatedWith Bryant, John Emory. person
associatedWith Bryant, John Emory, 1836-1900. person
associatedWith Butler-Gunsaulus Collection (University of Chicago. Library) corporateBody
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associatedWith Carlisle Family family
associatedWith Carlton, Cornelius Hart. person
associatedWith Caroline County (Va.) Circuit Court corporateBody
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associatedWith Carpenter, Walter, person
associatedWith Carswell, Porter Wilkins, 1904-1986. person
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associatedWith Carter, Champe, 1840-1886 person
associatedWith Cavell, J. Wesley. person
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associatedWith Clay, Patsy. person
associatedWith Cooley, E. C. person
associatedWith Corliss, George Wilhelm, 1834-1903. person
associatedWith Crandon, Thomas Franklin Philip, 1834-1919. person
associatedWith Crydenwise, Henry M. person
associatedWith Culpeper County (Va.) Circuit Court. corporateBody
associatedWith Daniels, Henry. person
associatedWith Daniels, Nathan W., 1832-1867. person
associatedWith Davidson, James Wilson. person
associatedWith Davis, Joseph Emory, 1784-1870. person
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associatedWith De Forest, John William, 1826-1906. person
associatedWith District of Columbia. Office of the Surveyor. corporateBody
associatedWith Douglass, Esther W. person
associatedWith Downs, Levi B., 1839-1884 person
associatedWith Durang, John T. person
associatedWith Dutton, Ira B., 1843-1931. person
associatedWith Dwight, Richard Yeadon, 1837-1919. person
associatedWith Eaton family. family
associatedWith Eaton, William F. person
associatedWith Elliot, Thomas. person
associatedWith Emily, Howland 1827-1929. person
associatedWith Ensor Family. family
associatedWith Fisk, Clinton Bowen, 1828-1890. person
associatedWith Fluvanna County (Va.) Circuit Court. corporateBody
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associatedWith Freedmen's Bureau. corporateBody
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associatedWith Fulmore, Z. T. person
associatedWith Gault, Matthew. person
associatedWith Georgia. Surgeon in Chief. corporateBody
associatedWith Gillem, Alvan C. (Alvan Cullem), 1830-1875. person
associatedWith Gillette, James Jenkins, d. 1881. person
associatedWith Glass, Carter, b. 1919. person
associatedWith Goochland County (Va.) Circuit Court. corporateBody
associatedWith Gourdin, Theodore Louis, 1790-1866. person
associatedWith Grant, Jesse Root, 1794-1873. person
associatedWith Groesbeck, J. W. person
associatedWith Hale, William Dinsmore, 1836-1915. person
associatedWith Hanover County (Va.) Circuit Court. corporateBody
associatedWith Harrell, Enos. person
associatedWith Harris, Frank. person
associatedWith Harris, Mina. person
associatedWith Harrison, W. H. (William Henry), 1795?-1878. person
associatedWith Havens, Morton H., 1839- person
associatedWith Henry County (Va.) Circuit Court. corporateBody
associatedWith Herrick, Henry Nathan, 1832-1886. person
associatedWith Hewins, Edward F., 1893- person
associatedWith Hogarty, William P., 1840-1914. person
associatedWith Holt family. family
associatedWith Hopkins, Marcus Sterling, 1840-1914. person
correspondedWith Hopkinson, James, Esq. person
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associatedWith Howard, O. O. (Oliver Otis), 1830-1909. person
associatedWith Howland, Emily, 1827-1929. person
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associatedWith Hutchcroft, R. W. person
associatedWith Inman, William, 1843-1924. person
associatedWith Johnson, Charles F. (Charles Francis), 1827-1867. person
associatedWith Kleinpeter, Joseph, b. 1798. person
associatedWith Langston, John Mercer, 1829-1897. person
associatedWith Louisa County (Va.) Circuit Court. corporateBody
associatedWith Lunenburg County (Va.) Circuit Court. corporateBody
associatedWith Mathewes, J. Fraser. person
associatedWith McKemmey, E. J. person
associatedWith Miles, Nelson Appleton, 1839-1925. person
associatedWith Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States. Commandery of the State of Massachusetts, collector. corporateBody
associatedWith Minor, Katherine Surget, 1834-1926. person
associatedWith Mitchell, A. L. person
associatedWith Mitchell, A. S. person
associatedWith Mitchell, Julian A. (Julian Augustus), 1836-1907. person
associatedWith Morrison, Tara D. person
associatedWith Morscheimer, Henry, fl. 1867. person
associatedWith Nelson, Charles Alexander, 1839-1933 person
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associatedWith Pendleton, Susan Bingham, 1870- person
associatedWith Rappahannock County (Va.) Circuit Court. corporateBody
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correspondedWith Royal, William, fl. 1863-1869. person
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correspondedWith Saxton, Rufus, 1824-1908. person
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associatedWith Sherman, William T. (William Tecumseh), 1820-1891. person
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associatedWith Smith, William Burrows. person
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associatedWith Southern Famine Relief Commission. corporateBody
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associatedWith Sumner, William Graham, 1840-1910. person
associatedWith Surry County (Va.) Circuit Court. corporateBody
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associatedWith Swain, Samuel Glyde. person
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associatedWith Welch, Robert M., fl. ca. 1865-1868. person
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associatedWith Wythe County (Va.) Circuit Court corporateBody
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Place Name Admin Code Country
Texas
Virginia
Bourbon County (Ky.)
Kentucky
Georgia--Liberty County
United States
Southern States
Southern States
Mississippi
United States
Southern States
Southern States
Georgia--Chatham County
United States
United States
Virginia
United States
United States
United States
Louisiana
Southern States
Tennessee
Southern States
Alabama
Tennessee
North Carolina
Georgia--Ossabaw Island
Texas
United States
Georgia
United States
United States
Alabama
Dallas County (Ala.)
Louisiana
Georgia
Buckingham County (Va.)
United States
United States
Southern States
Southern States
Southern States
Southern States
Southern States
Southern States
United States
Southern States
Virginia
Southern States
United States
Southern States
Arkansas
United States
United States
Washington (D.C.)
United States
Southern States
Georgia--McIntosh County
Alabama
Georgia
Southern States
Kentucky--Bourbon Counyy
South Carolina
Arkansas
Georgia--Saint Catherines Island
Southern States
Kentucky--Bourbon County
Southern States
United States
United States
North Carolina
Southern States
Mississippi
Georgia--Glynn County
Southern States
Southern States
Virginia
Washington (D.C.)
United States
South Carolina
Tennessee
Southern States
Southern States
United States
Southern States
Subject
Pardon
Freedmen--Southern States--Economic conditions
Medical records
Carriage and wagon making--19th century
Livestock
African Americans--History--1863-1877
Legal documents--19th century
African Americans
Alabama
Child labor--19th century
Freedmen
Medicine--Sources
Reconstruction (U.S. history, 1865-1877)--Sources
Legal documents
Indentured servants
Freedmen--Education--Sources
Freedmen--History--Sources
Government, Law and Politics
Contracts for work and labor
Organization
Business and Labor
Plantation life
Apprenticeship programs--19th century
Land tenure
Reconstruction (U.S. history, 1865-1877)
Children's rights--19th century
Education
African Americans--Education--Sources
African Americans--History--Sources
Household employees--19th century
Occupation
Activity
Administering law
State government records

Corporate Body

Active 1865

Active 1870

Information

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