- An overview and the 13th Amendment
- Life after slavery for African Americans
- Black Codes
- The First KKK
- The Freedmen's Bureau
- The 14th Amendment
- The 15th Amendment
- The Compromise of 1877
- Failure of Reconstruction
- Comparing the effects of the Civil War on American national identity
Congress created the Freedmen's Bureau to economically and politically empower freed people after the Civil War.
- The Freedmen’s Bureau was established in March of 1865 to help freed people achieve economic stability and secure political freedoms.
- Many white Southerners, as well as President Andrew Johnson, challenged the Bureau’s legitimacy, sparking racial violence in the South and the ultimate failure of the Bureau.
- The Bureau presented questions about the role of the federal government in establishing and maintaining racial and economic equality in the United States.
The promising goals of the Freedmen’s Bureau
As the Civil War wound to a close in 1865, African Americans in the South celebrated the end of slavery. They immediately began to take steps to improve their own condition by seeking what had long been denied to them: land, financial security, education, and the ability to participate in the political process. However, they faced the wrath of defeated white Southerners who were determined to keep blacks an impoverished and despised underclass. Recognizing the widespread devastation in the South, Congress created the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands in March 1865, popularly known as the Freedmen’s Bureau. Lincoln approved of the Bureau, giving it a charter for one year.
Cartoon ridiculing the Freedmen's Bureau.
The Freedmen’s Bureau was intended to act as a primitive welfare agency, aiming to ease the transition from slavery to freedom. While some Bureau agents were corrupt or incompetent, others worked hard to secure significant freedoms for blacks. Under control of Union war hero Oliver O. Howard, the Bureau delivered food to freedmen and poor whites in the South, and it helped freed people gain labor contracts.
The Bureau also took up the fight for African American education, establishing scores of public schools where freed people and poor whites could receive both elementary and higher education. Respected institutions such as Fisk University, Hampton University, and Dillard University are part of the legacy of the Freedmen’s Bureau. General Howard later opened and became president of the historically black college, Howard University. In this endeavor, the Freedmen’s Bureau received support from Christian organizations that had long advocated for abolition, such as the American Missionary Association (AMA).
Photo of Oliver O. Howard.
Prolonging racial tensions post Civil War
The schools that the Freedmen’s Bureau and the AMA established inspired resentment among the white population in the South. Indeed, the Freedmen’s Bureau’s programs and its very existence were sources of controversy. Those who resisted this type of federal government activism denounced it as a foolish effort and a waste of federal money.
Congress renewed the Bureau’s charter in 1866, but President Johnson, who steadfastly believed that the work of restoring the Union had been completed, vetoed the rechartering on the grounds that it interfered with states’ rights. Congress, in turn, overrode the president’s veto.
Johnson pardoned many former Confederates and restored their land, as well as removed Bureau employees he thought were too sympathetic to African Americans. Radical Republicans continued to support the Bureau, igniting a contest between Congress and the president that intensified during the next several years.
This dispute involved conflicting visions of the proper role of the federal government. Radical Republicans believed in the constructive power of the federal government to ensure a better day for freed people. Others, including Johnson, denied that the government had any such role to play.
Due to pressure from white Southerners, Congress dismantled the Freedmen’s Bureau in 1872. The Bureau failed to make a real stride towards racial equality mostly due to the fight between Congress and the President, as well as subpar funding.
What do you think?
Did the Freedmen’s Bureau succeed or fail? Why?
How did the Freedmen’s Bureau expand the reach of the federal government?
How did the Freedmen's Bureau compare to later federal programs for education and public welfare, like the New Deal or the Civil Rights Act?
Want to join the conversation?
- When did the Republican party shifted positions on the role of government?(6 votes)
- If the Freedmen's Bureau sought to provide help and equality to freedmen, why is their advertisement depicting a black man with an ape-like face?(3 votes)
- This was a political piece made by the enemies of the Freedman's Bureau. If you read the title, it says the Freeman's Bureau was made to keep "Negroes in idleness" and that black soldiers made more than white soldiers, etc.(2 votes)
- In the aftermath of the Civil war, the southern states refused to abide by federal laws.Should they have been readmitted into the Union while still in a state of what some considered insurrection/(3 votes)
- At that point, many people, especially Andrew Johnson, were more concerned with uniting the country. For them, it was best to admit the Southern states as quickly as possible.(5 votes)
- First, Freedman's act expanded the reach of federal government into the everyday life of the people, where before it was up to the states? Although, Freedman's Bureau was a good idea, but it never went far enough. Is it possible seeing blacks getting help and southerners still under the thumb of the northern politicians cause hatred to grow?
And why did corrupt politicians and their friends not punished for their cheating the program?
And why today do so few people know that Howard University was started by a white Northern General?(3 votes)
- Hi! Two questions just popped into my head while I was reading this article. Why was there a need for the Freedmen’s Bureau? And my second question is that What were some of the things that the Freedmen’s Bureau accomplished?(2 votes)
- Did the Freedmen’s Bureau succeed or fail? Why?(2 votes)
- Sorry, but the in-text questions are for you to answer on your own. If you have any other questions related to the topic, you can ask them :)(1 vote)
- How does KKK reacted to the creation of freedmen's bureau?(1 vote)
- The KKK did not like the Freedman's Bureau and they targeted its workers and killed them and their supporters.(3 votes)
- -"as well as removed Bureau employees he thought were too sympathetic to African Americans."-for this quote remove means kill?
-Why did American Missionary Association (AMA) support Freemen's Bureau?
-Why did they bad about the Freedmen’s Bureau and the AMA published school?
- why does 13,14, and 15 Amendment is success because of the Freedmen’s Bureau?
- Freedmen’s Bureau helped poor white but why did he removed Bureau employees for just sympathetic?(0 votes)
- 1)To answer your first question, Johnson likely fired those people. If he went around killing white men, he would get a bad image.
The second question is in the context, if you read properly you can find it.
Unfortunately, I didn't understand the 3rd and 4th questions. Please rephrase them.
To answer your last question, Johnson removed Bureau employees because they were sympathetic towards African Americans. He didn't care if they helped poor white people. He just didn't want them to help African Americans.
Hope this helped :)(4 votes)