The online tool for teaching with documents, from the National Archives

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

Page 1



2

Activity Element

Agreement of Labor for Truss B. Hall

Page 1



3

Activity Element

Contract Between James Mitchell and Dick and Wife

Page 1



4

Activity Element

Register of Marriages

Page 1



5

Activity Element

Teachers' Rules

Page 1



6

Activity Element

Photograph of the Dealing Out of Rations in Uniontown, Alabama

Page 2



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

Southern land owners who had sided with the Confederacy during the Civil War had to prove their loyalty to the Union in order to have their abandoned or confiscated property returned to them. After James Hicks swore an oath of allegiance to the United States, he petitioned for the return of his seized land, which was held by the Freedmen's Bureau.

The Federal Government had established the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands – better known as the Freedmen's Bureau – after the Civil War to aid formerly enslaved people. One of the major activities of the Bureau was the leasing of abandoned and confiscated property.

The U.S. District Attorney ordered that all legal obstructions to the return of Hicks's land be dismissed. This document granted the land to "James Hix and his heirs forever."

Transcript

[handwritten]

Virginia to wit:

This is to certify that the lot of land in Hampton Elizh-City Co: bounded by King Street, Church St & Sinclair is charged to James Hix and his heirs forever upon the Commissioners books of this County. Also that the lot on the creek in the same place bounded by King, Armistead, Sempkins & the creek is charged to said James Hicks & his heirs forever, upon the Commissioners book's of this county. Given under my hand this 12th day of February 1866.

Wm. L. Howard Clerk of
Elizabeth City Co: VA

[stamp]
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-land-james-hicks, December 2, 2021]


Certificate of Land for James Hicks

Page 1



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 – better known as the Freedmen's Bureau.

One of the services this agency provided was assisting freedpeople with labor contracts. This contract acknowledged that Robert McKenzie, representing Robinson Company, 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."

Transcript

Office of Bureau of Refugees Freedmen &c.
For Robeson Co
Lamberton Aug 28th 1865

This instrument witnesseth that Robert McKenzie of Robeson Co agrees to pay Truss B. Hall $4.00 per month until 25th day of December next for an in situation of the said Truss B. Hall rendering the Robert McKenzie true and faithful service and obey all lawful commands as he use to when a slave.

Robert McKenzie
Truss B. Hall
x his mark

Witnessed and approved
James Sinclair, agent of Bureau
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; Freedmen's Labor Contracts, 5/1865 - 12/1867; Records of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, ; National Archives Building, Washington, DC. [Online Version, https://www.docsteach.org/documents/document/hall-labor-agreement, December 2, 2021]


Agreement of Labor for Truss B. Hall

Page 1



Document

Contract Between James Mitchell and Dick and Wife

1/19/1866

This contract shows that Richard and Mary, formerly enslaved, were hired by James Mitchell to labor on the land and perform any other labor that Mitchell deemed necessary in Hardeman County, Tennessee.

The document comes from the records of the Freedmen's Bureau. Following the Civil War and ratification of the 13th Amendment, formerly enslaved persons faced many challenges. Congress established the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands — better known as the Freedmen’s Bureau —within the War Department on March 3, 1865. The Freedmen’s Bureau assisted formerly enslaved persons by witnessing labor contracts between the freedmen and plantation owners or other employers, legalizing marriages, supplying necessities such as food and clothing, promoting education, and settling freedmen on abandoned or confiscated land.

Transcript

We the undersigned have this day agreed to hire to James Mitchell for the year 1866 for the following considerations Viz. Two bales cotton 500 each ten barrels corn five bushels wheat. Said James Mitchell is to furnish us in meal & bread. We are to furnish ourselves in clothing also we are to pay our own Doctors bills We also agree to do any kind of labor Said James Mitchell may deem necessary outside of the crop, and at all times obeying strictly the instruction of the Same Service to commence Jany 1st 1866 close 25th Dec 1866

James Mitchell
Richard [hand drawn X] X
Mary [hand drawn X] X
Approved Jany 19th 1866
John D [illegible]
[signature illegible]

Attest
J.W. Wilkes
P. F. Neely

[3 stamps adhered on bottom of page show image of George Washington and read: U.S. Inter. Revenue Inld. Exchange, 5, Five Cents]



D No 554
James Mitchell
To
Dick and Wife
Jany 19th 1866
Hardeman Co
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; Contracts, 1865 - 1867; Records of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, ; National Archives Building, Washington, DC. [Online Version, https://www.docsteach.org/documents/document/contract-mitchell-dick-wife, December 2, 2021]


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 enslaved couples formed lasting bonds during their enslavement, their 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.

Congress established the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands — better known as the Freedmen’s Bureau — as the Civil War neared its end, in 1865. The Bureau helped facilitate and record marriages.

The Freedmen's Bureau recorded the county marriages seen in this document, performed by D Maxwell, Clerk of the Court in North Carolina, for the quarter ending on September 30, 1865.

Transcript

Record of Marriages for Which licenses were issued by D Maxwell Clerk of County during the quarter ending September 30, 1865.

[Entries include the following information in the following order:] Date – Names: Males – to – Females – Remarks [this column is entirely blank]

July 8 1865 – Albert Wheatly – to – Cressy [illegible]
[July] 5 [1865] – Elias Winthrop – [to] – Hannah Willson
[July] 21 [1865] – Joseph Gentile – [to] – Rebecca Sims
[July] 28 [1865] – Milas Owens – [to] – Sylva Brown
[July] 29 [1865] – Robert Johnson – [to] – Martha Blair
Aug 12 [1865] – John Sandford – [to] – Ellen Graham
[Aug] 17 [1865] – Monroe Harris – [to] – Miriam Simmons
[Aug] 17 [1865] – Thos Simmons – [to] – Charity Orr
[Aug] 26 [1865] – Thos Barnwell – [to] – Anny Houston
[Aug] 26 [1865] – Anozie Stile – [to] – Elina Stile
[Aug] 26 [1865] – Sandy Johnson – [to] – Roxana Pitts
[Aug] 31 [1865] – Doctor Sheppard – [to] – Indy McNealy
Sept 7 [1865] – John McCullough – [to] – Amanda Taylor
[Sept] 14 [1865] – Thos Orr – [to] – Louisa Orr
[Sept] 18 [1865] – Stephen Torrence – [to] – Dovy Maxwell
[Sept] 16 [1865] – James Sawson – [to] – Mary A Davis
[Sept] 18 [1865] – Amos Caldwell – [to] – Dinah Wilson
[Sept] 21 [1865] – Adolphus Young – [to] – Martha Lewis
[Sept] 25 [1865] – Edward Willson – [to] – Francis Johnson
[Sept] 27 [1865] – James Walker – [to] – Alicia Garth

The above is a correct Record transcribed from the Marriage Record in its Clerks office of this County.
[signed] John C Barnett
Capt & Asst Supt F.M.B.



Bu R F & A L
Charlotte NC
Oct 10th 1865

Barnett John C
Capt. & Supt.

Report of Marriages registered
During quarter preceding
September 30th 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; Reports, 1865 - 1869; Records of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, ; National Archives Building, Washington, DC. [Online Version, https://www.docsteach.org/documents/document/register-marriages, December 2, 2021]


Register of Marriages

Page 1



Register of Marriages

Page 2



Document

Teachers' Rules

2/1865

Following the Civil War, the Federal Government established the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands to aid former slaves – better known as the Freedmen's Bureau. It helped freedpeople establish schools, purchase land, locate family members, and legalize marriages.

This February 1865 teacher's report includes the numbers of students taught, the number of hours spent teaching, and the condition of the school. Teachers H.M and H.S. Barstow were affiliated with the Northwestern Freedmen's Aid Commission (NFAC), and were required to abide by that organization's rules of conduct, which are printed in the report template. Teachers, for example, had to instruct their students for six hours a day and could be dismissed for filing false reports.

Transcript

[printed form]

Northwestern Freedmen’s Aid Commission
Teacher’s Monthly Report

No. Three (3).

Report of School No. 20, located at Home Farm, in the Department of Little Rock, Ark, for the Month ending February 1st A.D. 1865.

I.
Have taught fifteen days the past Month. -- Lost two days. (cold)
1. Whole No. of Scholars enrolled, One Hundred & thirteen, 113
2. Average Daily Attendance, [handwritten] Eighty, 80
3. Tardy, Very Low, 10
4. Absent, Fourteen, 14
5. Transferred, None, 0
6. Left, Fourteen 14

II.
1. No. of hours engaged in Teaching Daily, Six, 6
2. No. of hours engaged in Moral and Religious Instruction, Per Week, Seven, 7
3. No. of hours engaged in Visiting the Sick, distributing Stores, or other Missionary Work enjoined, total for the Month, Sixty, 60
4. No. of Days’ Labor Performed, Twenty four, 24
5. No. of Days’ Lost, Seven, (Wife was unwell 5 days - Colds) 7

III.
1. State of Teacher’s Health, Just Medium at present,
2. Sanitary Condition of School, Very Good at this time
3. Sanitary Condition of Post, " " " "



IV.
1. New or Continued Difficulties, A want of the proper books & charts for the use of beginners. House is not properly seated; & is uncomfortable on acct of being too open, [illegible] weather will reunify the soil in part at least
2. New or Continued Encouragements, Scholars appear to be anxious to learn &c
3. Give elsewhere at length cases of Special interest, Religions are maintained and continue to increase in interest -- Good is being accomplished,
4. Contingent Expenses - in Items, Total for the Month $44.30 ($34.30 for Stove & Pipe.) The Ballance for a Blackboard, & other items,
5. Additional Remarks,

Clothing
1 Peices [sic] of Clothing madeup, 3
2 " given away, 40
3 " of clothing sold, 3
4 Bal of goods sold, $3.00
5 Boxes on hand, unopened, -- 1
6 Peices [sic] of clothing on hand 15
7 Packages of goods on hand, 0
8 All we now have are [illegible] overcoats & a Box of Blankets.

V.
Inventory of Articles belonging to the Commission in care of Teacher.
1. Books, - Have a part of the books on hand reported last month
2. Charts, Five,
3. Slates, " " " " " " " "
4. Writing Materials, " " " " " " " "
5. Chairs, Benches, &c., " " " " " " " "
6. Blackboard Materials, Have a new blackboard, & [illegible]
7. Non=Classified Articles, A. slight addition,

Dated, Home Farm, L. Rock, Ark. Jan 31st 1865
Signed, H.M. & H. S. Barstow, N. W. F. A. C. [printed]Teacher. [handwritten] s,

[facing page:]

1. Every teacher is subject to the instruction of the General Superintendent, of the Superintendent of Schools, and of the Superintendent of Sanitary and Domestic Affairs. Disobedience or disrespect to either, will, at discretion of the Commission, be deemed sufficient cause for removal.

2. The Commission reserves the right to dismiss any Teacher, without explanation, upon thirty days' notice.

3. No Teacher quitting his or her assigned post of duty, for a longer or shorter period, without the consent of the Corresponding Secretary, or of an authorized Superintendent, shall be deemed in good standing, or entitled to pay or allowance, until an explanation, satisfactory to the Superintendent of Schools, has been made and approved in writing.

4. Teachers will use their best exertions for the preservation of the property of the Commission; revise the monthly inventory with care; and on no account leave one post for another, or for a return north, without delivering to the nearest Superintendent, the custody of all articles theretofore in their keeping, and taking a written receipted inventory in evidence of the transfer. Failure to observe this rule will render the delinquent liable for the full value of the property un-transferred.

5. All Teachers not excused in writing are expected to spend six hours daily in teaching. Whenever they fail to do so their monthly reports must show the delinquency, and
satisfactorily account for it. To this Rule special attention is called.

6. Teachers will use every endeavor to systematise their labors throughout, and to habituate their pupils to regularity and promptitude.

7. Teachers will not use their orders for transportation without the knowledge and approval of the nearest Superintendent, except in cases of unusual emergency, of which satisfactory explanation shall be made to the Superintendent of School at the earliest opportunity.

8. Any Teacher detected in making careless or wilfully inaccurate reports may be dismissed without notice.

9. No Teacher will be allowed to pay or allowance after the date of his or her dismissal, or the expiration of the time of his or her commission.

10. The General Superintendent and the Superintendent of Schools, have authority to suspend Teachers at their discretion.

11. A Teacher who shall leave the employ of the Commission, or enter the employ of any other party, without the approval of the Superintendent of Schools, or of the General Superintendent and the fulfilment of such conditions as these Superintendents are authorized to impose, will thereby forfeit his or her standing with this Commission.

11. Reports in due form must be forwarded regularly on the first or not later than the fifth day of each month, in duplicate: one copy to the Corresponding Secretary at Chicago; the other to the Superintendent of Schools. Any Teacher who shall fail to satisfy the Commission that this rule has been fully observed, shall, in the discretion of the Commission, forfeit one half the salary otherwise due for each month's labor partially or altogether unreported.

13. Willful carelessness of any of the foregoing rules, will always be deemed sufficient cause for dismissal.

JACOB R. SHIPHERD,
Corresponding Secretary.



Little Rock, Ark
Jan 31, 1865.
H.M. Barstow
Teacher at Home Farm.
Report for January 1865
[line]

N. W. F. A.
[line]

TEACHER’S REPORT
OF
School No. Twenty (20) No. 4
Located at Home Farm, L. Rock, Ark,
for the Month Ending February (Jan 31)
1st A.D. 1865
[line]

No. Three (3)
H.M. & H. S. Barstow,
Teacher. s.
[line]

Dated, Jan 31st 1865
Received,
[line]

Horton & Leonard Printers, 104 and 106 Randolph St., Chicago
This primary source comes from the Records of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands.
National Archives Identifier: 594901
Full Citation: Teachers' Rules; 2/1865; Narrative School Reports from Teachers and Superintendents of Freedmen's Schools, 12/1864 - 6/1865; Records of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, ; National Archives Building, Washington, DC. [Online Version, https://www.docsteach.org/documents/document/teachers-rules, December 2, 2021]


Teachers' Rules

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Teachers' Rules

Page 2



Teachers' Rules

Page 3



Document

Photograph of the Dealing Out of Rations in Uniontown, Alabama

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.

Upon being freed, the formerly enslaved persons faced many challenges. Congress established the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands — better known as the Freedmen’s Bureau —within the War Department on March 3, 1865. The Freedmen’s Bureau assisted formerly enslaved persons by legalizing marriages, supplying necessities such as food and clothing, promoting education, witnessing labor contracts between the freedmen and plantation owners or other employers, and settling freedmen on abandoned or confiscated land. This image shows food being distributed in Alabama.
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 ; 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 2, 2021]


Photograph of the Dealing Out of Rations in Uniontown, Alabama

Page 2



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.

Transcript

[text goes across two pages]

Applications of Refugees and Freedmen for Government Lands in accordance with Circular No 10
Headquarters Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands State of Louisiana

[Entries include the following information in the following order:] No – Name – Date of Application – No of family - men, women, children – No of acres desired – Location – Means – Remarks

183 – Henry J. Jackson, Freedman – New Orleans Oct 4 – 2 [men] – [blank] – Stevenson Plantation, Par of West Feliciana – Stated as sufficient – Will plant cotton &c

184 – Henry Minor & 4 others, Freedmen – New Orleans Oct 5 – 5 [men], 4 [women], 9 [children] – 50 [acres] – Miles Taylor Plantation, Parrish Assumption – 3 Horses, 1 mule, 1 cart, 400 barrels of corn – [blank]

185 – Dick Plummer and David [illegible], Freedmen – New Orleans Oct 5 – 2 [men], 4 [women], 2 [children] – 25 [acres] – [blank] – 2 axes & hoes – [blank]

186 – David Ross and 3 brothers, Freedmen – New Orleans Oct 5 – 4 [men], 4 [women], 9 [children] – 20 [acres] – Navy Yard Plant’n, Parish of Orleans – 4 horses & harness 1 cart, $100 in cash – This applicant desires land elsewhere (20) acres

187 – Robert Butler and 5 others, Freedmen, See No 32 – New Orleans Oct 7 – 6 [men], 4 [women], 2 [children] – [blank] – Logan Plantation, St. Charles – 3 horses, 2 plows, hoes &c, $60 worth of rice, wages due $600.00 – We wish to plant cotton &c

188 – John Peirce, Freedman – New Orleans Oct 7 – 1 [man], 1 [woman], 1 [child] – 15 [acres] – Hermitage Plant’n, Parish of St. Charles – None – [blank]

189 – Napoleon Bonaparte, Freedman – New Orleans Oct 7 – 1 [man], 1 [woman], 6 [children] – 10 [acres] – [blank] – $30 in cash 25 bbls. corn – [blank]

190 – Andrew Green and 9 others, Freedmen – New Orleans Oct 7 – 10 [men], 10 [women], 10 [children] – 100 [acres] – Ashland Plantation, Parish of Ascension – $200 in cash, 5 bales cotton, 600 barrels corn & c. Wages due $300 – Wish to raise cotton, cane and corn.

191 – Alexander Hubanks and 10 others, Freedmen – New Orleans Oct 7 – 11 [men], 8 [women], 16 [children] – 100 [acres] – Ashland Plantation, Parish of Ascension – $500 cash, 5 bales cotton, 350 bbls corn – Wish to raise corn, cotton & cane

192 – Adam Nickle and 5 others, Freedmen – Thibodaux Oct 3rd – 6 [men], 6 [women], 19 [children] – 150 [acres] – Robt Tucker Plantation, Parish Lafourche – 5 horses, stock poultry &c – Ask an early start

193 – Thomas Martin, Freedman – Thibodaux Oct 5th – 1 [man], 1 [woman], 6 [children] – 40 [acres] – Leighton Plant’n, Parish Lafourche – 1 horse, hogs &c $150 cash – [blank]

194 – [illegible] Thomas and Brother, Freedman – New Orleans Oct 9 – 2 [men], 2 [women], 3 [children] – 20 [acres] – Near N.O. – $175 cash, 50 bbls corn – [blank]

[total men]
51

[total women]
45

[total children]
83

[total acres]
530
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; Register of Applications of Freedmen for Land, 9/1865 - 10/1865; Records of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, ; National Archives Building, Washington, DC. [Online Version, https://www.docsteach.org/documents/document/land-applications, December 2, 2021]


Application of Henry Jackson

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Application of Henry Jackson

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