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In Their Own Words

December 22, 1865

Freedmen’s Bureau on Work Contracts

Gen. Tillson, assistant commissioner of the Freedmen’s Bureau in Georgia, issued the following order with respect to former slaves who refused to sign work contracts:

“Freed people have the right to select their own employers; but if they continue to neglect or refuse to make contracts, then, on and after January 15, 1866, officers and agents of the Bureau will have the right, and it shall be their duty, to make contracts for them, in all cases where employers offer good wages and kind treatment, unless the freed people belong to the class who have sufficient people to support themselves and their families without contracting to labor, or can show that they can obtain better terms. Contracts so made shall be binding on both parties as though made with the full consent of the freed people.”

Source: Franklin M. Garrett, Atlanta and Environs: A Chronicle of its People and Events (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1969 reprint of 1954 original volume), p. 691.