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In the chaotic last days of the Civil War, newly emancipated slaves were on the move across the South. Some had escaped bondage by joining Union military forces and following them; others were attempting to reunite with lost family members. Most had only the clothes on their backs. In March 1865 Congress established the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen…

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Item Type: Diary/Letter
Date: 1865

After emancipation, former slaves throughout the South articulated their hopes and expectations for full citizenship. In this letter to the newly created Freedmen's Bureau, a group of African-Americans in Virginia list the economic and social needs of their community, and request assistance in finding homes. Joseph R. Johnson, a white notherner…

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Item Type: Diary/Letter
Date: 1865

When slavery ended, southern landowners attempted to establish a labor system that would pay freedpeople low wages and keep them under strict control. One method of accomplishing this was through indenture contracts for African-American children who were orphans or whose families were incapable of providing for them. These contracts required that…

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Item Type: Diary/Letter
Date: 1866

Because marriages between slaves before emancipation had no legal standing, many couples rushed to have their marriages officially registered and made solemn during Reconstruction. The Freedmen's Bureau along with African-American ministers became strong advocates of legalized marriages. This sketch showed a chaplain marrying an African-American…

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Item Type: Poster/Print
Date: 1866