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America's History in the Making

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Protest of the Freedmen of Edisto Island to General Howard, 1865

Edisto Island, S.C., October, 1865
General It Is with painfull Hearts that we the Committee address you, we Have thurougholy considered this order which you wished us to Sighn, we wish we could do so but cannot feel our rights Safe If we do so,

General we want Homesteads; we were promised Homesteads by the government; If It does not carry out the promises Its agents made to us, If the government Having concluded to befriend Its late enemies and to neglect to observe the principles of common faith between Its self and us Its allies In the war you said was over, now takes away from them all right to the soil they stand upon save such as they can get by again working for your late and their all time enemies. If the government does so we are left In a more unpleasant condition than our former

we are at the mercy of those who are combined to prevent us from getting land enough to lay our Fathers bones upon. We Have property In Horses, cattle, carriages, & articles of furniture, but we are landless and Homeless, from the Homes we Have lived In In the past we can only do one of three things Step Into the public road or the sea or remain on them working as In former time and subject to their will as then. We can not resiste It In any way without being driven out Homeless upon the road.

You will see this Is not the condition of really freemen

You ask us to forgive the land owners of our Island, You only lost your right arm. In war and might forgive them. The man who tied me to a tree & gave me 39 lashes & who stripped and flogged my mother & sister & who will not let me stay In His empty Hut except I will do His planting & be Satisfied with His price & who combines with others to keep away land from me well knowing I would not Have any thing to do with Him If I Had land of my own.—that man, I cannot well forgive. Does It look as if He Has forgiven me, seeing How He tries to keep me In a Condition of Helplessness

General, we cannot remain Here In such condition and If the government permits them to come back we ask It to Help us to reach land where we shall not be slaves nor compelled to work for those who would treat us as such

We Have not been treacherous, we Have not for selfish motives allied to us those who suffered like us from a common enemy & then Having gained our purpose left our allies In their Hands There is no rights secured to us there Is no law likely to be made which our Hands can reach. The state will make laws that we shall not be able to Hold land even If we pay for It Landless, Homeless, Voteless, we can only pray to god & Hope for His Help, your Influence & assistance With consideration of esteem Your Obt Servts

In behalf of the people
Henry Brown
Committee: Ishmael Moultrie
yates Sampson

Henry Bram et al. to Maj. Gen. O. O. Howard, [Oct. 28?, 1865]; and Henry Bram et al. to the President of these United States, Oct. 28, 1865; B-53 1865 and P-27 1865, Letters Received (series 15), Washington Headquarters, RG 105, NARA.

Creator Committee
Context Former slaves hoped that they would be granted "forty acres and a mule," enough land to begin to make a living for their families.
Audience General Howard
Purpose To persuade him to grant them some land

Historical Significance

The freedman were thrilled by the possibility of owning their own land. They were bitterly disappointed when those possibilities were not realized and appealed to federal authority. This letter is to General Oliver O. Howard, who hailed from Maine.

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