Freedmen’s Bureau Agents and Black Civilian Informants in Texas, 1866-1868
Submission to the Friends of Fondren Library Graduate Research Awards, 2017. This paper was originally prepared for Course HIST 583 (Spring 2016): Southern History Research Seminar, given by Professor Randal Hall, Department of History.
Historians have often depicted the relationship between freed African Americans and Freedmen’s Bureau Agents as being a relationship where African Americans often depended on bureau agents for protection, guidance in understanding politics and labor, etc. This paper argues that bureau agents and freedpeople had a more complex and interdependent relationship in which bureau agents also depended on African Americans. Black civilians served as informants to bureau agents providing them with important local knowledge to better understand the physical spaces in which they operated. This paper will rely primarily on the assistant state commissioner’s Freedmen’s Bureau Records for Texas and the Texas Field Office Records to support these claims. Bureau agents used this information to request assets from the state commissioners in the form of military manpower, supplies, and other things to help implement Reconstruction policies in Texas in an effort to extend liberties associated with citizenship to newly freed African Americans.