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4. What was the Freedman’s Bureau?  What contribution did it have on social welfare?

The Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands was created in March 3, 1865 after two years of severe debate. The Freedmen Bureau, as it was commonly called, was to address all matters concerning refugees and freedmen within the states that were under reconstruction. The Bureau was not appropriated a budget of its own, but was as a substitute commissioned as a subsidiary of the War Department and depended upon it for funds and staff.

In the beginning, the Freedmen’s Bureau did not experience from lack of funding. The Bureau sold and rented lands in the South which had been take away during the war. However, President Johnson undermined the Bureau’s funding by returning all lands to the pre-Civil War owners in 1866. After this point, freed slaves lost access to lands and the Bureau lost its principal source of funding.

Many historians believe that the Freedmen’s Bureau made a very small impact, if any, on the freedmen during rebuilding. A few of the reasons for the Bureau’s failures as a provider for social welfare include the following:

  • lack of funds
  • weak organization of the Bureau’s internal structure
  • opposition from conservatives
  • and apathy of the Southern community

Despite the many criticisms, the Freedmen’s Bureau did facilitate African-Americans gain access to the rights that they were deprived of during slavery. Some of the positive results were:

The Freedmen’s Bureau helped black communities to found schools and churches. Under slavery, blacks had been deprived of the right to education and religion.

It monitored the civil authorities in cases that concerned African-Americans. Initially, the Freedmen’s Bureau conducted its own court of law when it was prohibited for a black to testify in court in the majority of Southern states.

 

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