African Americans in the Post–Civil War Era

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What is the significance of the Freedmen's Bureau?

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The Freedman's Bureau was a federal agency created immediately after the Civil War to help the South's ex-slaves by giving them educational opportunities, health care, and job training.  The organization was also helpful in uniting families that had been separated in slave sales.  This was one of the largest federal agencies that offered aid to the less fortunate--other than the military, the federal budget in 1865 was quite small as people did not believe it was government's job to provide direct aid to people.  The Freedmen's Bureau also was the federal government's first foray into public education as it sent teachers to the South in order to teach the former slaves how to read; it was illegal to teach a slave this before the war.  The Freedman's Bureau was controversial in the South as ex-Confederates called the Northerners coming south "carpetbaggers" because they saw them as opportunists.  The program ultimately closed to due a lack of Congressional funding.  Radical Republicans in Congress wanted the program to be larger, but the Johnson White House wanted the program cut.  This would be the first of many flashpoints between the administration and Congress.  

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