How Effective were the Efforts of the Freedmen’s Bureau?

Weighing the Evidence

All documents and text associated with this activity are printed below, followed by a worksheet for student responses.

Introduction

President Lincoln’s issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation, the defeat of the Confederate Army, and the passage of the 13th Amendment resulted in the freeing of approximately four million African Americans from slavery. Upon being freed, the formerly enslaved persons faced many challenges. The Freedmen’s Bureau aimed to help these people. Your job is to determine how effective it was.

Analyze each document, be sure to read the details that come with it, and place the document on the scale according to which interpretation it supports.


Name:
Class:

Worksheet

How Effective were the Efforts of the Freedmen’s Bureau?

Weighing the Evidence

Examine the documents and text included in this activity. Consider how each document does or does not support two opposing interpretations or conclusions. Fill in the topic or interpretations if they are not provided. To show how the documents support the different interpretations, enter the corresponding document number into the boxes near the interpretation. Write your conclusion response in the space provided.

Interpretation 1
The Freedmen’s Bureau was effective in providing for the wants and needs of formerly enslaved persons.

The Freedmen’s Bureau
Interpretation 2
The Freedmen’s Bureau was ineffective in providing for the wants and needs of formerly enslaved persons.



1

Activity Element

Certificate of Land for James Hicks

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2

Activity Element

Agreement of Labor for Truss B. Hall

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3

Activity Element

Contract Between James Mitchell and Dick and Wife

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4

Activity Element

Register of Marriages

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5

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Teachers' Rules

Page 1



6

Activity Element

Photograph of the Dealing Out of Rations in Uniontown, Alabama

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7

Activity Element

Application of Henry Jackson

Page 1



Conclusion

How Effective were the Efforts of the Freedmen’s Bureau?

Weighing the Evidence

Now that you have considered some evidence, think about the following questions in preparation for a class discussion:

  1. Which documents did you place on the side of “effective”?
  2. Which on the side of “ineffective”? Which in the center? Why?
  3. Which documents did you give greater weight? Why?
  4. According to the documents, what was the job of the Freedmen’s Bureau? To what extent do you think the Bureau helped formerly enslaved persons?
  5. What questions do these documents raise in your mind?


Your Response




Document

Certificate of Land for James Hicks

2/12/1866

After James Hicks swore an oath of allegiance to the United States and petitioned the Freedmen's Bureau for the return of his seized land, the U.S. District Attorney ordered that all legal obstructions to the return of his land be dismissed with this court proceeding.
This primary source comes from the Records of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands.
National Archives Identifier: 595077
Full Citation: Certificate of Land for James Hicks; 2/12/1866; Case File of James Hicks; Case Files Relating to Restorations of Property, 1865 - 1866; Records of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, ; National Archives Building, Washington, DC. [Online Version, https://www.docsteach.org/documents/document/certificate-of-land-for-james-hicks, December 11, 2017]


Certificate of Land for James Hicks

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Document

Agreement of Labor for Truss B. Hall

8/28/1865

Following the Civil War, the Federal Government established the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands to aid former slaves. One of the services this agency provided was assisting freedmen with labor contracts. This contract, dated August 28, 1865, acknowledged that Robert McKenzie would pay Truss B. Hall $4 a month for his service until December 25, and that Hall would “obey all lawful commands as he use to when a slave.”
This primary source comes from the Records of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands.
National Archives Identifier: 595055
Full Citation: Agreement of Labor for Truss B. Hall; 8/28/1865; Records of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, . [Online Version, https://www.docsteach.org/documents/document/agreement-of-labor-for-truss-b-hall, December 11, 2017]


Agreement of Labor for Truss B. Hall

Page 1



Document

Contract Between James Mitchell and Dick and Wife

1/19/1866

Richard and Mary, former slaves, were hired by James Mitchell to labor on the land and perform any other labor that Mitchell deemed necessary.
This primary source comes from the Records of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands.
National Archives Identifier: 595062
Full Citation: Contract Between James Mitchell and Dick and Wife; 1/19/1866; Records of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, . [Online Version, https://www.docsteach.org/documents/document/contract-between-james-mitchell-and-dick-and-wife, December 11, 2017]


Contract Between James Mitchell and Dick and Wife

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Contract Between James Mitchell and Dick and Wife

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Document

Register of Marriages

9/30/1865

While many slave couples formed lasting bonds during their enslavement, slave marriages had no legal foundation or protection. The abolishment of slavery not only meant citizenship but the ability to have legally recognized marriages without fear of the loss of a spouse through sale. The Bureau helped facilitate and record marriages. The Freedmen's Bureau recorded these county marriages performed by D Maxwell, Clerk of the Court, for the quarter ending on September 30, 1865.
This primary source comes from the Records of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands.
National Archives Identifier: 595052
Full Citation: Register of Marriages; 9/30/1865; Records of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, . [Online Version, https://www.docsteach.org/documents/document/register-of-marriages, December 11, 2017]


Register of Marriages

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Register of Marriages

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Document

Teachers' Rules

ca. 1865

This February 1865 report of teachers H.M and H.S. Barstow includes numbers of students taught, the number of hours spent teaching, and the condition of the school. The Barstows were affiliated with the Northwestern Freedmen's Aid Commission (NFAC) and were required to abide by that organization's rules of conduct. Teachers, for example, were required to instruct their students for six hours a day and could be dismissed for filing false reports.
This primary source comes from the Records of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands.
National Archives Identifier: 594901
Full Citation: Teachers' Rules; ca. 1865; Records of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, . [Online Version, https://www.docsteach.org/documents/document/teachers-rules, December 11, 2017]


Teachers' Rules

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Teachers' Rules

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Teachers' Rules

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Document

Photograph of the Dealing Out of Rations in Uniontown, Alabama

3/3/1865-6/1872

This primary source comes from the Records of the Bureau of Agricultural Economics.
National Archives Identifier: 593616
Full Citation: Photograph 84-F-145-2348; Photograph of the Dealing Out of Rations in Uniontown, Alabama ; 3/3/1865-6/1872; Photographs Relating to Farm Management Investigations, 1896 - 1921; Records of the Bureau of Agricultural Economics, ; National Archives at College Park, College Park, MD. [Online Version, https://www.docsteach.org/documents/document/dealing-rations-uniontown, December 11, 2017]


Photograph of the Dealing Out of Rations in Uniontown, Alabama

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Document

Application of Henry Jackson

ca. 1865-1869

Former slaves could apply to lease abandoned or confiscated land held by the Federal Government. After President Andrew Johnson began to pardon former Confederates, much of this property was returned to its original owners.This register records the applications of freedmen who applied to the Freedmen's Bureau to lease seized and abandoned land.
This primary source comes from the Records of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands.
National Archives Identifier: 595044
Full Citation: Application of Henry Jackson; ca. 1865-1869; Records of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, . [Online Version, https://www.docsteach.org/documents/document/application-of-henry-jackson, December 11, 2017]


Application of Henry Jackson

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Application of Henry Jackson

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