Freedmen's BureauFreedmen's Bureau, in U.S. history, a federal agency, formed to aid and protect the newly freed blacks in the South after the Civil War. Established by an act of Mar. 3, 1865, under the name “bureau of refugees, freedmen, and abandoned lands,” it was to function for one year after the close of the war. A bill extending its life indefinitely and greatly increasing its powers was vetoed (Feb. 19, 1866) by President Andrew Johnson, who viewed the legislation as an unwarranted (and unconstitutional) continuation of war powers in peacetime. The veto marked the beginning of the President's long and unsuccessful fight with the radical Republican Congress over Reconstruction. In slightly different form, the bill was passed over Johnson's veto on July 16, 1866. Organized under the War Dept., with Gen. Oliver O. Howardas its commissioner, and thus backed by military force, the bureau was one of the most powerful instruments of Reconstruction. Howard divided the ex-slave states, including the border slave states that had
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American Civil War, President of the United States, Ulysses S. Grant, Reconstruction era of the United States, Freedmen's Bureau