The Freedmen's Bureau
March 3, 1865
The Freedmen's Bureau—officially, the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands—was created to manage the wideranging problems associated with Civil War refugees and freed slaves. During and after the war, millions of freed men and women suffered severe housing, food, medical, and educational needs. Prior to the creation of the bureau, to the extent that these issues were dealt with, responsibility necessarily fell on the Union Army. The bureau was intended to relieve occupying armies of these duties and deal with the problems in a more concerted and comprehensive fashion. The Freedmen's Bureau existed for only seven years, from 1865 to 1872, and the bulk of its work was completed by 1870. While it undertook actions across a whole spectrum of social problems, much of the bureau's most lasting work was in education. The bureau was responsible for the creation of thousands of primary and secondary schools for blacks and a series of teacher-training schools to train black teachers all across the South.
The creation, continuation, and work of the Freedmen's Bureau were all politically contentious. The creation of the bureau was very strongly opposed by Southern political leaders, who viewed it as a means of Northern control and domination of the South. Subsequent legislation continuing the existence and expanding the mandate of the bureau was the subject of intense presidentialcongressional conflict, with repeated vetoes and votes to override these vetoes. The work of the bureau fueled Southern political opposition and was the subject of repeated charges and investigations