Glimpses at the Freedmen's Union Industrial School, Richmond, Virginia Digital History ID 2377|
Credit: Library of Congress
Media type: engraving
Museum Number: LC-USZ62-33264
Annotation: This illustration of African American women sewing appeared in Frank Leslie's illustrated newspaper, v. 23, 1866 Sept. 22, p. 5.
Though only intended to function one year after the end of the Civil War, U.S. Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands (often called the Freedman’s Bureau), was responsible for the creation of several medical facilities which provided assistance to millions of African Americans and the establishment of thousands of educational institutions. The U.S. established the agency to ease the transition of former slaves into society during the Reconstruction, and it encountered heavy resistance in the south from whites.
Institutions like the Freedman’s Union Industrial School offered many African Americans an opportunity to not only to learn important trade skills but also lessons in reading and mathematics. It is estimated that by the end of 1865, more than 90,000 former slaves were enrolled in schools whose attendance rates between 79 and 82 percent for which the United States spent over five million dollars.
The Bureau also functioned as powerful political tool intended to organize African Americans to vote for the Republican Party. After a bill extending the life of the program was vetoed by President Andrew Johnson, the Bureau was abolished; and many of the schools were closed in the face of racial violence against students and teachers by whites.
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