to feed, clothe, and educate former slaves
The Freedmen's Bureau Bill, which created the Freedmen's Bureau, was initiated by President Abraham Lincoln and was intended to last for one year after the end of the Civil War. It was passed on March 3, 1865, by Congress to aid former slaves through legal food and housing, oversight, education, health care, and employment contracts with private landowners. It became a key agency during Reconstruction, assisting freedmen (freed ex-slaves) in the South. The Bureau was part of the United States Department of War. Headed by Union Army General Oliver O. Howard, the Bureau was operational from 1865 to 1871. It was disbanded under President Ulysses S. Grant.
At the end of the war, the Bureau's main role was providing emergency food, housing, and medical aid to refugees, though it also helped reunite families. Later, it focused its work on helping the freedmen adjust to their conditions of freedom. Its main job was setting up work opportunities and supervising labor contracts. It soon became, in effect, a military court that handled legal issues. By 1866, it was attacked by Southern whites for organizing blacks against their former masters. Although some of their subordinate agents were unscrupulous or incompetent, the majority of local Bureau agents were hindered in carrying out their duties by the opposition of former Confederates, the lack of a military presence to enforce their authority, and an excessive amount of paperwork.