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Freedmen’s Bureau more valued than Union army

“To the very end of Reconstruction, blacks would insist that ‘those who freed them shall protect that freedom.’ The strength of their commitment to this principle, and to the [Freedmen’s] Bureau as an embodiment of the nation’s responsibility, became clear in 1866 when President Johnson sent generals John Steedman and Joseph S. Fullerton on an inspection tour of the South. Johnson hoped to elicit enough complaints to discredit the agency, but in city after city, blacks rallied to the Bureau’s support….

“In Wilmington, North Carolina, 800 blacks crowded into the Brick Church to voice support. ‘If the Freedman Bureau was removed,’ one speaker insisted, ‘a colored man would have better sense than to speak a word in behalf of the colored man’s rights, for fear of his life.’

“Somewhat taken aback, General Steedman asked the assemblage if the army or the Freedman’s Bureau had to be withdrawn, which they would prefer to have remain in the South. From all parts of the church came the reply, ‘The Bureau.'”

– From “Reconstruction, America’s Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877″ by Eric Foner (2002)

By 1869 the role of the Freedmen’s Bureau had been greatly diminished, and it was closed in 1872.