Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal, Volume 5, Number 2, May, 1995 Page: 104
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Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal
real rapport with either the white or black community. Even though these sub-assistant
commissioners did not set any records for job longevity, they certainly did make some
important observations about what changes the war had wrought in Colorado County,
the most important being the upheaval in the racial structure. Blacks now served on
juries. They had an official government representative to protect their rights. Whether
they were acted upon or not, they were allowed to file complaints and could hope to
achieve some type of satisfaction if they had been wronged. Goodman's bold response
in retrieving Tate from jail provided the black community, if only temporarily, with a
demonstration that society might be changing. It was changing, the agents reported, in
small, almost imperceptible ways.
In the first few months of the bureau's existence, it had no sustained
presence in Colorado County. Thus the citizens did not have to contend with a sub-
assistant commissioner's interference in race relations or anything else. When the
Freedmen's Bureau finally did come to the county, whites do not seem to have been
alarmed. In fact, the citizens of Colorado County evinced a real interest in having a bureau
representative in their midst, though they would have preferred a native of the county
to the U. S. Army veterans who were imposed upon them. To be sure, the local
authorities did occasionally clash with bureau officials, and such clashes led to
complaints to the military and the provisional governor.
The numerous extant evaluations of black labor from the period, provide
ample evidence that the most important question regarding the black community in the
minds of most whites was the quality of the labor they could provide. Most of the
evaluations center on the question of whether or not the freedmen were laboring, in the
favorite expression of both local whites and bureau agents, "industriously." Perhaps
surprisingly, in the year following their emancipation, these observers believed that
Colorado County blacks worked hard and, for the most part, led responsible lives. Blacks,
for their part, were certainly concerned with injustices which occurred, and apparently
approached agents with a host of problems, but none of the bureau agents stayed in the
county long enough to provide us with more than a glimpse of them or to chronicle a
sustained black response to them.
For the next sixteen months, the Freedmen's Bureau would maintain a
presence in Columbus and Colorado County. The agency had gotten a new chief, Joseph
B. Kiddoo. Shortly, the state legislature would attempt to implement a harsh black code,
and Columbus would experience two sub-assistant commissioners who were almost the
antithesis of each other. Enon M. Harris, who would be agent from September 1866 to
February 1868, was a thief and an unpleasant man. His replacement, Louis W.
Stevenson, whose tenure would extend from March to December 1868, exemplified
responsibility and dedication.
[Part 2 to follow]
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Nesbitt Memorial Library. Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal, Volume 5, Number 2, May, 1995, periodical, May 1995; Columbus, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth151394/m1/36/?q=nesbitt%20memorial%20library%20journal: accessed June 22, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Nesbitt Memorial Library.