“strict justice for every man, woman, and child”

Mary Farmer-Kaiser

in Freedwomen and the Freedmen's Bureau

Published by Fordham University Press

Published in print May 2010 | ISBN: 9780823232116
Published online March 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780823234943 | DOI:

Series: Reconstructing America

“strict justice for every             man, woman, and child”

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Operating at best with a belief that freedmen and women required “a guardian rather than a jailor or hangman”, Freedmen's Bureau officials worked not only to defend the rights of African Americans against racial discriminations, but also to enforce the obligations of freedom as they mediated southern justice. To bureau men, dispensing justice meant in the end enforcing racial equality before the law and extending civil rights to African Americans rather than fighting gender discriminations. Thus as it mediated legal disputes involving freedpeople, the bureau again claimed the opportunity to impress upon former slaves the rights and obligations of free labor and contract as well as northern notions of household relations, an independent manhood, and a dependent womanhood. Freedwomen also used the bureau to intercede into their domestic relations when they became the target of abuse by husbands, filing complaints of domestic abuse including sexual violence.

Keywords: Freedmen's Bureau; justice; freedpeople; African-Americans; freedom; racial equality; civil rights; gender discrimination; domestic abuse; sexual violence

Chapter.  12464 words. 

Subjects: Social and Cultural History

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