The Freedmen's Bureau Schools in Texas,
ALTON HORNSBY, JR.*
THE END OF THE CIVIL WAR NOT ONLY BROUGHT AN ERA OF SOUTHERN
history to a close, but it also ushered in a new time of strife. While
the rebellious states had struggled through many difficult problems
brought on by the rigors of war, peace brought not relief but fresh con-
cerns. Among the most pressing was the plight of the approximately
4,000,000 newly freed blacks. If they were to survive and ultimately as-
sume their rightful role among other Americans, immediate steps had
to be taken to provide them with food, clothing, shelter, jobs, and par-
ticularly education. Humanitarians and political leaders took note of
the conditions and needs of the near-helpless freedmen and began prep-
arations to offer aid and assistance even before Lee's surrender at Appo-
On March 3, 1865, Congress established within the War Department
a Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands.' The Freed-
men's Bureau, despite many shortcomings, helped thousands of blacks
survive by providing them with food, clothing, shelter, and medical
attention. It sought also to promote economic stability among them by
trying to oversee relations with their employers in order to prevent ex-
ploitation. Some of the Bureau's most important and lasting work,
however, was in the field of education.
By legislative action in July, 1866, Congress provided a legal basis for
the schools already established by the Bureau for blacks throughout the
South. The act provided:
that the commissioner shall have power to seize, hold, use, lease, or sell all
buildings and tenements, and any lands appertaining to the same, or other-
wise, formerly held under color of title by the late so-called confederate
states, and not heretofore disposed of by the United States, and any build-
* Mr. Hornsby is an associate professor of history at Morehouse College.
1 The Statutes at Large, Treaties, and Proclamations, of the United States of America
from December z863 to December 1865, Vol. XIII (Boston, 1866), 507-50o8.
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 76, July 1972 - April, 1973. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101202/. Accessed May 5, 2015.