DIGITAL: Mapping The Freedmen’s Bureau

Created by Angela Walton-Raji and Toni Carrier:

“Mapping the Freedman’s Bureau is devoted to helping researchers put their ancestors back on the historical landscape where they lived. During those critical years after the Civil War, many once enslaved people found themselves in a dangerous situation. Many had freed themselves and taken refuge after making their way “to the Union Line.” But once they arrived at the line, their fate was uncertain. Within months many found themselves living in contraband camps. They had been declared “contrabands” by Gen. Benjamin Butler in 1861, when three men (Shepard Mallory, Frank Baker, and James Townsend) were the first to take refuge at the Union encampment at Ft. Monroe, Virginia.

“The most critical function was to serve the newly freed people, as a new world opened for them. In those first critical years after freedom came, a new reality unfolded for the entire southern population, and people from every aspect of life needed assistance. So the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands was created.

“But the Bureau however, served all who needed intervention. The “Freedmen” were Black, the “Refugees” were white and the “Abandoned Lands” once owned by the landowners were eventually re-settled, after oaths of allegiance from former secessionists were taken. For assistance with negotiating wages, and insuring that former enslaved people would be paid and no longer exploited for their labor, Labor Contracts are part of the Bureau records and are now available to examine. For assistance in settling disputes countless letters and reports tell much of that story. And for the first opportunity to have marriages performed officially, the chaplains of the bureau were there and producing marriage records, which are also a part of that collection….”

Explore: About | Mapping The Freedmen’s Bureau

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