National Museum of African American History and Culture

Records of the Superintendent of Education for the State of Louisiana, Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, 1864-1869.

Collection ID:
Physical Description:
12 Reels
This collection is comprised of digital surrogates previously available on the 12 rolls of microfilm described in NARA publication M1026. These digital surrogates reproduced the records of the Superintendent of Education for the State of Louisiana, Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, 1864-69. The records consist of 18 bound volumes and nearly 2.4 meters (8 feet) of unbound documents. The bound volumes include letters, telegrams, and endorsements sent; registers of employees; accounts with freedmen schools; and other records. The unbound documents consist primarily of letters and telegrams sent and reports sent and received.

Historical Note
Historical Note
[The following is reproduced from the original NARA descriptive pamphlet for M1026.]
The Freedmen's Bureau, as the Bureau was commonly known, was established in the War Department by an act of March 3, 1865 (13 Stat. 507) and extended twice by acts of July 16, 1866 (14 Stat. 173) and July 6, 1868 (15 Stat.83). Maj. Gen. Oliver Otis Howard, appointed by the President in May 1865, served as Commissioner throughout the life of the Bureau until it was terminated in accordance with an act of June 10, 1872 (17 Stat. 366).
Although the Bureau was part of the War Department, its work was primarily social and economic in nature. Bureau officials cooperated with benevolent societies in issuing supplies to destitute persons and in maintaining freedmen's schools. Bureau officials also supervised labor contracts between black employees and white employers; helped black soldiers and sailors collection bounty claims, pensions, and backpay; and attended to the disposition of confiscated or abandoned lands and other property.
The act of March 3, 1865 authorized the appointment of assistant commissioners to aid the Commissioner in supervising the work of the Bureau in the States. In Louisiana, operations began in June 1865, when Chaplain Thomas W. Conway took command as Assistant Commissioner at Louisiana Bureau headquarters in New Orleans. Other Assistant or Acting Assistant Commissioners for the State of Louisiana were Generals Absalom Baird, R.C. Buchanan, James S. Fullerton, Edward Hatch, Joseph A. Mower, Philip H. Sheridan, and Lt. Col. William H. Wood. In accordance with an act of July 25, 1868 (15 Stat. 193) Bureau operations within the States were terminated January 1, 1869, except for educational functions and the collection of claims.
In a circular issued by Commissioner Howard on July 12, 1865, assistant commissioners were instructed to designate an officer in each state to serve as "general superintendent of schools." These officials were to "take cognizance of all that is being done to educate refugees and freedmen, secure proper protection to schools and teachers, promote method and efficiency, correspond with the benevolent agencies which are supplying his field, and aid the Assistant Commissioner in making his required reports." In October 1865, some degree of centralized control was established over Bureau educational activities in the States, when Rev. John W. Alvord was appointed Inspector of Finances and Schools. In January 1867 Alvord was divested of the financial responsibilities and was redesignated General Superintendent of Education.
In the two years following the April 1862 occupation of New Orleans by Union troops, various civilian and military organizations established schools to educate freedmen in Louisiana. A more systematic educational program began with Gen. Nathaniel Banks' order of March 22, 1864 (Department of the Gulf General Order 38), which established a Board of Education to govern the organization of freedmen's schools in Louisiana. B. Rush Plumly was appointed head of the Board; Lt. Edwin M. Wheelock was appointed supervisor. Schools under the Board's jurisdiction were supported mainly by a tax on citizens recently disloyal to the Union.
On June 29, 1865, Assistant Commissioner Conway was authorized to take charge of the schools in Louisiana on behalf of the newly created Freedmen's Bureau. He appointed Capt. H.R. Pease Superintendent of Education on July 5, 1865. Wheelock and Plumly were dismissed, but most of the other officers and enlisted men who had served as subordinate school officials under the old Board of Education were retained. Pease's successors as Superintendent of Education for Louisiana included Bvt. Maj. A. G. Studer; Lieutenants F. R. Chase, J. M. Lee, L. O. Parker, and H. H. Pierce; and E. W. Mason.
For administrative purposes, the Superintendent divided the state into seven divisions with an assistant superintendent in charge of each. The divisions were headquartered in Alexandria, Amite City, Bragg Home Colony, Greenville Colony, New Orleans, Shreveport, and Thibadeaux. Other officials included school directors, who were normally assigned to a parish; city superintendents of schools; and teachers. Bureau officials (sub-assistant commissioners, assistant subassistant commissioners, and agents) in charge of subdistricts and parishes acted as inspectors of the schools in their areas and submitted periodic reports to the Superintendent of Education and the Assistant Commissioner.
The schools maintained by the Bureau in Louisiana included day schools for children, night schools for adults, and Sabbath (Sunday) schools for both groups. Reading, writing, and arithmetic received the greatest emphasis in most Bureau schools. Teachers were recruited from the local white population, from among freedmen, and from the North. Among the more active national societies recruiting teachers from Northern States and otherwise aiding the freedmen in Louisiana were the Methodist Freedmen's Aid Society, the American Baptist Home Mission Society, the American Free Mission Baptist Society, and the American Missionary Association.
The Bureau's responsibility for education included establishing and maintaining schools and examining and appointing teachers. Bureau funds were used to pay for constructing and repairing school buildings, for renting properties used for educational purposes, and for providing teachers with transportation. Whenever possible, the Bureau also provided protection to teachers, pupils, and school property. Teachers' salaries were normally paid by northern aid societies, from taxes levied against the Southern populace, or from contributions by freedmen. Bureau policy dictated that, whenever possible, subscriptions were to be solicited from freedmen for the establishment of schools and that tuition was to be charged for each student attending. At various times, the Bureau in Louisiana raised money for schools through a 5-percent tax levied against all people in the state, a 5-percent tax levied against all freedmen or against freemen using the schools, and from a tuition collected from the students. The first plan failed because whites opposed it; the other two plans failed because freedmen were unable to pay a tax or tuition. Many schools in Louisiana failed because teachers did not receive funds to meet monthly expenses.
The correspondence received and sent by the Office of the Superintendent of Education is generally addressed to or signed by the Superintendent, the Acting Assistant Adjutant General, or the secretary to the Superintendent. The correspondents represented in the series include the Assistant Commissioner; teachers, school officials, subassistant commissioners, and other subordinate officials; Army officers attached to military commands in the state; state and local political officials; and white citizens and freedmen of the state. Many items of correspondence are addressed to the Superintendent of Education as the "General Superintendent of Education," the more formal title of his office. The shorter title is used in these introductory remarks.
Several series of records dated before July 1, 1865, are of the Board of Education, the predecessor of the Office of the Superintendent of Education in Louisiana.
The volumes reproduced in this publication were arbitrarily assigned numbers by the Adjutant General's Office (AGO) of the War Department after the records came into its custody. The AGO numbers are shown in parentheses only in the finding aid for this publication to aid in identifying the volumes on whose spines the numbers appear. The volume numbers without parentheses (throughout this publication) were assigned by the staff of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). Sometimes a volume was used to record more than one type of information; e/g/ the volume containing registers of weekly and monthly statistical reports of schools also contains the register of employees. The contents of these volumes have been filmed as if they were separate items.
Numbered blank pages have not been filmed. All indexes are filmed immediately preceding the records to which they pertain.

Immediate Source of Acquisition
Acquired from FamilySearch International in 2015.

Using the Collection
Conditions Governing Access
Freedmen's Bureau Digital Collection, 1865–1872, is a product of and owned by the National Museum of African American History and Culture, Smithsonian Institution. Copyright for digital images is retained by the donor, FamilySearch International; permission for commercial use of the digital images may be requested from FamilySearch International, Intellectual Property Office, at:
Preferred Citation
Courtesy of the U. S. National Archives and Records Administration, FamilySearch International, and the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.

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Repository Contact
National Museum of African American History and Culture
Washington, D.C. 20004