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Freedmen Defend Their School Against a Mob

The majority of schools for freedmen were established and run by freedmen, not by Northern reformers. Despite great logistical challenges—a scattered population, few resources to draw upon—Freedmen’s Bureau agents reported that emancipated men, women and children attended school in overwhelming numbers. Such schools, however, were the targets of violence by white mobs and terrorist organizations such as the Ku Klux Klan and the White League, as this report from a military officer stationed in Florida accounts.

The night school has been frequently disturbed. One evening a mob called out of the school house, the teacher, who upon presenting himself was confronted with four revolvers, and menacing expressions of shooting him, if he did not promise to quite the place, and close the school. 

The freedmen promptly came to his aid and the mob dispersed. 

About the 18th or 19th of the month, I was absent…when a formidable disturbance took place at the school. The same mob threatened to destroy the school that night, and the freedmen, learning this, assembled…at their place of instruction of condition of self-defense. 

I understand that not less than forty colored men armed to protect themselves, but the preparation becoming known to the respectable rowdies, they only maneuvered about in small squads, and were wise enough to avoid a collision.

Source | Captain C. M. Hamilton, “Letter to the Office of the Adjutant General in Washington, D.C., (1866); in American Social History Project, Freedom’s Unfinished Revolution: An Inquiry into the Civil War and Reconstruction, 180.
Creator | C. M. Hamilton
Item Type | Diary/Letter
Cite This document | C. M. Hamilton, “Freedmen Defend Their School Against a Mob,” SHEC: Resources for Teachers, accessed February 26, 2024,

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