The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 74, July 1970 - April, 1971

Book Reviews
JIM B. PEARSON, Editor
The Freedmen's Bureau in Louisiana. By Howard A. White. (Baton
Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1970. Pp. 227. Bibli-
ography, index. $7.50.)
The persistent relevance and the challenge of scholarly studies
about the Freedmen's Bureau seem to lie first, in the myth crediting
its existence as an instrument of public policy to as wrong-headed
a set of dilettante social engineers as our history affords, and sec-
ondly, in the constant discovery of new approaches to the study
of the Bureau, which become possible as interpretation moves away
from ideological polemics toward less-heated attitudes about this
opportunity for a government in crisis to choose new options for
social engineering. Overall treatments of the Bureau, from Paul S.
Pierce through W. E. B. Du Bois and William S. McFeely, have taken
sides with varying degrees of praise or blame about this agency. Stu-
dents of the problem have always known that the definitive word
awaited the studies of the Martin Abbotts-those scholars willing to
plow the state field. White, while sounding like William A. Dunning
in detail and like the revisionist in conclusion at the same time, has
brought us a step nearer to definitiveness.
This book is written in a clear and direct style which serves to
reveal, not obscure, the conclusions of the author. Fortunately the
eight chapters cover the basic issues in the interpretation of the
Bureau, and such a topical arrangement allows for clear-cut positions.
The problem of documentation is as serious as the problem of
writing. In both instances the question of how much of the national
story is legitimately involved in the local, as well as how much of
both can wash over into over-kill is a problem White has some
trouble resolving. In the face of so much material this problem was
inevitable.
In spite of a growing literature to the contrary, White, while
agreeing that General O. O. Howard was a poor administrator, joins
the general's defenders by calling him "no fraud" in his first chapter.
In the second chapter the author calls the Bureau the greatest social

Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 74, July 1970 - April, 1971. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101200/. Accessed December 28, 2014.