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H.R. 613, An Act to continue . . . and to amend “An act to establish a Bureau for the relief of Freedmen and Refugees,” June 11, 1866

Congress created the Freedmen’s Bureau with an act on March 3, 1865, expecting the Bureau’s work to be complete within a year. In 1866, realizing the Bureau would require more time, Congress passed a bill extending its term and increasing its powers. President Andrew Johnson vetoed the bill, but both the House and Senate overrode his veto on July 16, 1866.

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

H.R. 613, An Act to continue . . . and to amend “An act to establish a Bureau for the relief of Freedmen and Refugees,” June 11, 1866

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