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Instituted during the Reconstruction after the Civil War in the United States the Freedman's Bureau was essentially the first federal attempt to provide welfare. It was set up to provide emergency help for the mass of freed slaves with nowhere to go and no money.

The immediate need was for medical care. The Freedman's Bureau built hospitals and provided medical care which sounds pretty straight forward but was hindered by terrible funding (most white people were of the opinion that freed slaves should be shipped off to Africa instead of becoming part of American society) and inadequate training.

Despite the lack of resources allocated to it and the outright hatred heaped on it by disposessed Southerners, the Freedman's Bureau made a lot of headway in establishing educational facilities for Black Americans. The Bureau built schools and actually established institutions for training teachers. Most of the larger Black colleges were started with funding or support from the Freedman's Bureau.

Now for the sad part

One of the biggest failings of the Freedman's Bureau was their plan for land redistribution. Although the idea had been discussed in positive terms by many politicians Andrew Johnson folded on the issue. Rather than embroiling himself in controversy he just gave the land back to the Southern whites after pardoning them. After that decision by Jackson Congress refused to even consider the idea of redistribution.

That snubbing by the president and Congress was the beginning of the end. The Freedman's Bureau ended up overseeing the sharecropping aggreements that eventually turned into something nearly as ugly as slavery.

Congress finally dissolved the Freedman's Bureau in 1872 as flamebait for pissed off Southerners who were causing too many problems already.

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