The Freedmen's Bureau and Reconstruction: Reconsiderations

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

13
Reconstruction's Allies: The
Relationship of the Freedmen's
Bureau and the Georgia
Freedmen

Paul A. Cimbala

YEARS AFTER THE PASSING of the Freedmen's Bureau, one Georgia freedwoman succinctly described what she had expected from the agency: "to get things to going smooth after the war."1 If pressed, she probably would have admitted that the Bureau had fallen short of accomplishing that goal, and, to some degree, many of Reconstruction Georgia's approximately half-million African Americans would have confirmed her disappointment.2 By the time of the Georgia Bureau's demise in 1870, freedpeople throughout the state still knew racism, fraud, and violence as common and constant hurdles placed in the way of their pursuit of the rights of free individuals by their unsympathetic white neighbors. It was a legacy that the Freedmen's Bureau had not intended to leave behind.3

The men of the Freedmen's Bureau were motivated by an ideology that had its roots, for most of them, in antebellum free-labor thought and, for a few of them, in antebellum reform. Their attitudes about the Union and freedom were nurtured by wartime developments that included a growing commitment to black civil rights; their commitment to Reconstruction was energized by a desire to secure the fruits of Union victory. Because of this ideological heritage, they did not find it difficult to pursue goals that—more often than not—intersected with the freedpeople's own goals. Working within fairly consistent intellectual parameters, they supported honest labor relations; assisted in establishing schools; offered tem-

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