Finding Freedom during the Reconstruction Era

Authored by Sarah Sporko

Ch. Rausenberg to Brvt. Capt. M. Frank Gallagher, September 30, 1868. Freedmen’s Bureau: Georgia Assistant Commissioner, Letters Received, Entered in Register 6, 2-672, Sept. 1868=Apr.1869, Part 1. Smithsonian Institution Transcription Center, Freedmen’s Bureau: Washington D.C.

In 1868, Ch. Raushenberg, an agent of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedman, and Abandoned Lands, also known as Freedmen’s Bureau, wrote a letter to the bureau reporting that two men, Lucius Lamar and Albert Jones, were questioned about a death of another man named Walker in Georgia. Both Lamar and Jones stated that Walker died from gunshot wounds in his chest after being harassed and threatened by a group of white men. Ch. Raushenberg forwarded this information to the Freedmen’s Bureau so the matter can be fully investigated and justice for Walker can be served. Letters such as the one written from Ch. Raushenberg, show how integral the Freedmen’s Bureau was during the transition from slavery to freedom during the Reconstruction Era of the United States (Mildred 1915, 67).

The Reconstruction Era in the United States lasted from 1865 to 1878 and largely focused on the reunification former Confederate States of American, also known as the South, to the United States of the America, also known as the North (Downs 2017, 5-10). This task proved to be difficult due to tensions between newly freed African Americans and white landowners of the South. Many people rebelled over the former slaves who gained land, education and fair wages. In 1865, the Bureau of Refugees, Freedman, and Abandoned Lands, also known as the Freedmen’s Bureau, formed to oversee the transition from slave labor to free labor in the South and to assist newly freed African Americans (Downs 2017, 13; Stampp 1965, 131-132). The initial primary duties of the Freedmen’s Bureau in Georgia concerned the economic, educational, and medical needs of African Americans (Stampp 1965, 131). The Freedmen’s Bureau also investigated crimes between African Americans and whites who resisted the new rights of African Americans (Richardson 2004, 16-17). 

The Bureau documented and intervened acts of violence against African Americans in the South, such the burning of schools (Summers 2014, 100). Many “white gangs” (Richardson 2004, 17) formed to fight against African Americans as they felt African Americans gained off of their losses from the war (Richardson 2004, 17-19). While some African Americans did gain confiscated land in addition to the other benefits the Freedmen’s Bureau offered many had little to live from (Mildred 1915, 60-65; Stampp 1965, 130-135). Many Southern landowners also used black codes to prevent African Americans from earning fair wages, something the Freedmen’s Bureau fought against (Mildred, 1915, 64-65; Stampp 1965, 133-134; Summers 2014, 98-100). Just a mere three years after its inception, Congress terminated the Bureau’s activities believing the national emergency in the South was over due to the passage of the 14th Amendment (Stampp 1965, 135). 

The Freedmen’s Bureau legacy carried the Venetian principles of Love, Respect, and Opportunity. The agents of Freedmen’s Bureau offered Love and Respect by bringing awareness to economic situation of African Americans to the United States Congress and cared to help African Americans find justice in the unjust situations they lived in South post-Civil War (Angel n.d., 2). Finally, agents offered African Americans opportunity by giving occasions to grow and fulfill their life with honest work contracts and providing land for families, which many died during the Civil War to have that right (Angel n.d., 2; Downs 2017, 1-3). 


Angel, Christine M. n.d. “Information Representation through the Vincentian Lens of Transparency: Providing the Under and Misrepresented with a Voice within Our Cultural Heritage Records.” Evolution of Teaching Philosophy: 1–7.

Downs, Gregory P, Kate Masur, and National Historic Landmarks Program (U.S.). 2017. The Era of Reconstruction : 1861-1900. Washington, DC: National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, National Historic Landmarks Program.

Mildred, Thompson C. 1915. Reconstruction in Georgia. New York, Columbia University. 

Richardson, Heather Cox. 2004. The Death of Reconstruction : Race, Labor, and Politics in the Post-Civil War North, 1865-1901. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press,

Stampp, Kenneth. 1965. The Era of Reconstruction 1865-1877. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.

Summers, Mark Wahlgren. 2014. The Ordeal of the Reunion: A New History of Reconstruction. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press,