The Freedmen’s Bureau

Reaction to Reconstruction

After the defeat of the South, the Southern States entered a period of radical reconstruction.

Congress brought in a series of new laws to force the defeated Southern States to accept major changes in how they ran their affairs. Many of the changes were resented by Southerners.

The US government was very concerned about helping the freed slaves. Thousands of them were on the move throughout the South: homeless, hungry, poor and suffering from disease. Something had to be done to help them.

In March 1865, Congress created the Freedmen’s Bureau or to give it it’s correct title: The Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands.

Aims of the Bureau

  • the setting up of a health programme and opening hospitals
  • distributing rations
  • setting up schools
  • offering legal assistance to former slaves
  • settling confiscated or abandoned land
African American students in a Freedman's Bureau school in Richmond, Virginia.
African American students in a Freedman's Bureau school in Richmond, Virginia. 1866.