The Freedmen’s Bureau: New Beginnings for Recently Freed African Americans
“The Freedmen’s Bureau is a story that needs to be told. All Americans would benefit by it. African Americans would greatly benefit by it. It comes as Abraham Lincoln’s greatest gesture, certainly his final gesture before he was murdered. Some four million slaves were set free and they would not have any place to stay, any place to sleep, or any food to eat had it not been for the concept of the Freedmen’s Bureau. When you know your background then your foreground pretty well takes care of itself. When you know where you’re coming from then you can design where you are going.” - Rev. Dr. Cecil L. Murray
The Civil War ended on April 9, 1865 with General Robert E. Lee’s surrender of the Confederate Army to the Union Army. The country was in complete chaos. How could a country that was so strongly divided mend itself into one cohesive unit? What would happen to over 3.5 million enslaved persons who have now been freed?
Before the war was even near an end, President Abraham Lincoln wrote the Emancipation Proclamation on September 22, 1862 and it went into effect on January 1, 1863. This act was not enforced until the South lost the War and most enslaved persons were not freed until late 1865. As one can imagine, the South’s defeat motivated stronger racial sentiments towards African Americans.