In Spring of 1865, after the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, President Andrew Johnson begins withholding support for the Freedmen’s Bureau and withdrawing commitments made by President Lincoln in negotiations with Frederick Douglass.
Upon learning that President Johnson was withdrawing support, General Saxton writes to Bureau Commissioner Oliver 0. Howard: “The lands which have been taken possession of by this bureau have been solemnly pledged to the Freedmen . . . it is of vital importance that our promises made to Freedmen should be faithfully kept . . . the Freedmen were promised the protection of the government, with the approval of the War Department . . . more than 40,000 Freedmen have been provided with homes under its promises . . . I cannot break faith with them now by recommending the restoration of any of these lands. In my opinion the order of General Sherman is as binding as a statute.”
Reference: Congressmember John Conyers Jr. with Jo Ann Nichols Watson, Reparations: An Idea Whose Time Has Come,in Should America Pay?: Slavery and the Raging Debate on Reparations(ed. Raymond A. Winbush, PhD 2003) at pp. 15-16.Back to Timeline