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Fisk University Course Catalog, Nashville, Tennessee, 1868–69

Fisk University, founded in 1866 as the Fisk School, was one of several historically black colleges established with support of the Freedmen’s Bureau. Its goal was to train much-needed teachers for southern schools.

Records of the U.S. Senate, National Archives and Records Administration

Fisk University Course Catalog, Nashville, Tennessee, 1868–69

The Freedmen’s Bureau

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 within 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.

The greatest success of the Freedmen’s Bureau lay in the planting of the free school among the Negroes, and the idea of free elementary education among all classes in the South.

W.E.B. Du Bois, The Freedmen’s Bureau, 1901