The Freedman's Bureau


The Freedman’s Bureau! An Agency to Keep the Negro in Idleness at the Expense of the White Man. Twice Vetoed by the President, and Made a Law by Congress. Support Congress & You Support the Negro. Sustain the President & You Protect the White Man, 1866. Woodcut. Graphic Arts Broadsides Collection

Following the Civil War, the American Freedmen’s Inquiry Commission was established to suggest how to help newly emancipated slaves. Out of their report was born the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, also known as the Freedman’s Bureau. Under the leadership of Major General Oliver Howard (1830-1909), the agency issued food and clothing, operated hospitals and temporary camps, helped locate family members, and promoted education.

In December 1865, the radical republicans in Congress attempted to strengthen the agency with the Freedman’s Bureau Act, but President Andrew Johnson (1808-1875) vetoed it. This racist poster was one of many graphics used to attack the congressional republicans and other groups working for Black suffrage. Specifically, it promotes the election of Hiester Clymer (1827-1884), who was running for Governor of Pennsylvania on a white-supremacy platform.

Note in the back right, the U.S. Capitol has columns labeled, Candy, Rum, Gin, Whiskey, Sugar Plums, Indolence, White Women, Apathy, White Sugar, Idleness, Fish Balls, Clams, Stews, and Pies.