The Freedmen's Bureau and Reconstruction: Reconsiderations

By Paul A. Cimbala; Randall M. Miller | Go to book overview

6
Architects of a Benevolent
Empire: The Relationship
between the American
Missionary Association and the
Freedmen's Bureau in Virginia,
1865–1872

E. Allen Richardson

THE AMERICAN MISSIONARY ASSOCIATION (AMA), one of the oldest and most influential of the antebellum Protestant benevolent societies, was organized in 1846 as a coalition of abolitionist organizations. The AMA became identified with the evangelical visions both of ending slavery and, in the spirit of the Second Great Awakening, of establishing a Christian America. In keeping with this vision following the Civil War, AMA administrators and teachers established more than five hundred schools for blacks and chartered nine historically black colleges drawing on the northern churches that sustained the agency.

The AMA also developed and maintained a lasting relationship with an arm of the federal government, the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, during the short period of the Bureau's existence from 1865 to 1872. This relationship was similar to that of other benevolent societies in its sharing of funds and cooperative endeavors to establish schools for freedpeople. It was also unique, for in no other instance was power so completely integrated between church and state in a complex, symbiotic pattern of dual appointments, mutual agendas, and shared perceptions about the nature of Reconstruction.

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