During its short existence (from 1865 to 1869) the Freedmen's Bureau provided crucial support to the immense population of freed slaves in the South at the end of the Civil War. In the immediate aftermath of the war, the Bureau provided food, shelter, clothing, and medical care to the enormous quantities of former slaves who chose to flee their plantations and became refugees. Subsequently, the Freedmen's Bureau took steps to improve the economic situation faced by freed blacks in the South. They attempted to find occupations for freed slaves, and took a leading role in negotiating labor contracts betwwen freedmen and large plantation owners, many of whom were desperate for labor. These arrangements frequently took the form of sharecropper agreements. By far the most enduring legacy of the Freedmen's Bureau was education. The Bureau set up schools for African-Americans around the South, and employed many Union veterans as teachers. These schools were part of the foundation of the public school system in the South. Additionally, the Bureau founded, or helped to found, many colleges for young black men. Many of these institutions still exist today.