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Civil War and Reconstruction
The Freedmen
Overview Documents

The Freedmen's Union Industrial School,
1866.

African American Odyssey

The Emancipation Proclamation and Thirteenth Amendment freed all slaves in the United States. Hundreds of thousands of African Americans in the South faced new difficulties: finding a way to forge an economically independent life in the face of hostile whites, little or no education, and few other resources, such as money. The situation was made all the more difficult because of attitudes such as those of freedman Houston Hartsfield Holloway, who said "...we colored people did not know how to be free and the white people did not know how to have a free colored person about them." In fact, many African Americans were quite prepared for freedom, as they demonstrated in 1865 and after by demanding their civil rights, the vote, the reunion of their families, education and economic opportunities.

For its part, the federal government established the Freedmen's Bureau, a temporary agency, to provide food, clothing, and medical care to refugees in the South, especially freed slaves. Special boards were established to set up schools for African Americans in the South, and black and white teachers from the North and South worked to help young and old become literate. Some African Americans in the South were encouraged to move to Northern cities where jobs would be available. Extending the vote to black Americans was hotly debated.

To find related materials in American Memory, you might try searching with such key words as freedmen, freedman, emancipation, ex-slaves, or African-American rights.
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