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Virginia Freedmen Resolve to Be "Efficient Citizens of these United States"

After emancipation, former slaves throughout the South articulated their hopes and expectations for full citizenship. In this letter to the newly created Freedmen's Bureau, a group of African-Americans in Virginia list the economic and social needs of their community, and request assistance in finding homes. Joseph R. Johnson, a white notherner and self-described "Missionary, and Teacher among Freedmen" presented the letter on their behalf.

Halls Hill Va  August 4th 1865.

Dear Sir:  On Tuesday August 1st 1865, the Colored People of Halls Hill and vicinity, (near Camp Rucker, & Falls Church) Va– celebrated West India Emancipation, and American Emancipation.

During the business part of the celebration... the following resolutions were unanimously adopted:–

1. “We feel it to be very important that we obtain HOMES–owning our shelters, and the ground, that we may raise fruit trees, concerning which our children can say–“These are ours”; also: that we may regularly and perseveringly educate our children, having our own school house in a central location, and also maintain public worship, and a Sabbath School, so that we may be an established and growing people, and be respected, and recognized by all loyal people, as welcome and efficient citizens of these United States–which is now our Country–made emphatically so by the blood of our brethren recently shed to save our Country.”

2  Resolved: That we appoint a Committee of seven to visit the Freedmens Bureau, and enquire–Can the Bureau give us any aid, or advice, in regard to obtaining Homes in this vicinity, or elsewhere?”...

This Committee are bearers of this document.

I trust that they will receive such a response as may much encourage them, and those whom they represent.  Yours for the Freedmen–

Joseph R. Johnson

Source | Joseph R. Johnson to Gen O. O. Howard, 4 Aug. 1865, Unregistered Letters Received, ser. 457, DC Assistant Commissioner, Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, Record Group 105, National Archives; from Freedmen and Southern Society Project,
Creator | Joseph R. Johnson
Item Type | Diary/Letter
Cite This document | Joseph R. Johnson, “Virginia Freedmen Resolve to Be "Efficient Citizens of these United States",” SHEC: Resources for Teachers, accessed September 27, 2023,

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