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Circular of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands, South Carolina, August 26, 1866

The Freedmen’s Bureau directed its commissioners to determine “. . . the locations where it is practicable and desirable to establish schools.” Agents estimated the number of people who would be served and the cost and condition of potential classrooms. Recruitment of teachers, sources of books and financial support, and the attitude of the local community were other considerations.

Manuscript Division, Library of Congress

Circular of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands, South Carolina, August 26, 1866

Educating the Emancipated

In 1865, Congress created the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands, known as the Freedmen’s Bureau, to provide for the needs of former slaves. Operating under the War Department, the Freedmen’s Bureau assisted with food, medical care, employment and education. To meet the tremendous demand among the newly emancipated for schools and instruction the Bureau found buildings suitable for classrooms and worked with other aid organizations to recruit teachers. By 1866, more than 100,000 African Americans throughout the South attended Freedmen’s Bureau schools.