About these collections

About: The Freedmen's Bureau & African Americans

During Reconstruction, the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands (the Freedmen's Bureau) provided assistance to tens of thousands of the formerly enslaved and impoverished whites in the Southern States and the District of Columbia.

"The war had liberated nearly four million formerly enslaved and destroyed the region's cities, towns, and plantation-based economy. It left the former enslaved and many whites dislocated from their homes, facing starvation, and owning only the clothes they wore."

"The Bureau was established in the War Department in 1865 to undertake the relief effort and the unprecedented social reconstruction that would bring freed people to full citizenship. It issued food and clothing, operated hospitals and temporary camps, helped locate family members, promoted education, helped freedmen legalize marriages, provided employment, supervised labor contracts, provided legal representation, investigated racial confrontations, settled freedmen on abandoned or confiscated lands, and worked with African American soldiers and sailors and their heirs to secure back pay, bounty payments, and pensions."

 Source: The National Archives (NARA) African American Records: Freedom's Bureau. 


More information: African American Records: Freedom's Bureau. 

Cover of NARA Guide

National Archives Guide to Freedmen's Bureau Field Office Records

Virginia Cole

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Virginia A. Cole, Ph.D.
106 Olin Library