Prepared by Elisabeth Lindsay.
The Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, commonly referred to as the Freedmen's Bureau, was established by Congress in March 1865, with the aim of providing assistance to "freedmen," newly freed slaves in their transition to freedom. The Freedmen's Bureau issued food and clothing, operated hospitals and refugee camps, established schools, helped legalize marriages, supervised labor agreements, and worked with African American soldiers and sailors and their heirs to secure back pay, bounty payments, and pensions. The Bureau was operational from June 1865 to December 1868.
The records created during the course of these activities are a rich source of documentation of the black experience in the late-19th-century America, and are essential for the study of African American genealogy and Southern social history. The Freedmen's Bureau records housed at the U. S. National Archives have been microfilmed with access being made more widely available through various library and online resources. For more information on these records and their content, visit the National Archives web site, The Freedmen's Bureau, 1865-1872.