African American Heritage

Microfilming the Freedmen's Bureau Records


"Colored Census", Huntsville and Athens, Alabama, 1865. On microfilm series M1900, Roll 19.

The National Archives has microfilmed these records in two stages. The first was completed in the 1970s with filming of selected records of the Bureau's Washington, DC, headquarters and records of the Bureau's two most prominent state-level officers, the Assistant Commissioners and superintendents of education, in several Southern States.

The second stage of filming started in 2001 with processing of the Bureau's field office records from 15 Southern and border States and the District of Columbia. Now the field office records for Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and the District of Columbia, totaling 1,100 linear feet (657 cubic feet), have been filmed. The Virginia field office records and post-Bureau records held by the Freedmen's Branch in the Adjutant General's Office became available in fall 2006.

Combined with the records of Bureau headquarters and of selected state Assistant Commissioners and supervisors of education previously filmed, the wider availability of these field office records enables researchers to take a closer look at the African American experience and the personal histories of individuals in that critical and unprecedented period of social reconstruction.

These microfilm publications are part of a five-year, multiseries project made possible by the United States Congress through The Freedmen's Bureau Records Preservation Act of 2000 (Public Law 106-444). The act authorized funds to preserve these records through microfilm technology and to begin the process of indexing the records by universities and other institutions for more effective use by researchers. Filming of the Florida field office records had already started under agreement with the Department of Special Collections, Smathers Library, University of Florida at Gainesville, FL. A team of National Archives volunteers, archivists, conservationists, technicians, and editors from several units treated and housed the records, prepared introductory texts, and filmed the documents.


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