Georgia Freedmen to the Freedmen's Bureau Subassistant Commissioner at Savannah, Georgia

Medway church  Liberty county [Ga.]  Nov 28th 1865

Dear Sir   We the People of Liberty county & State of georgia Set Free from the oppression of Slavery, Desire through our Delegates, Messrs. Toney. Golden; Gabriel. Andrews; & Toney Axon; To appeal to you asking aid and counsel in this our Distressed condition;  We Learned, from the Address of general Howard that we were to Return to the Plantation and work for our Former owners at a Reasonable contract as Freemen; and find. a Home and Labour, Provided we can agree1 But these owners of Plantation out here Says they only will Hire or Take the Prime Hands and our old and Infirm Mothers, and Farthers and our children will not Be Provided for; and this you will See Sir Put us in confusion;  yet there are some that have Become free are opn Plantations, that Do not know of their Freedom and we Dare not Mention that they are free:  We cannot Labour for the Land owners and know that our Infirm and children are Not Provided for; and not Allowed to educate or Learn More than they were permitted in Slavery;  our School that was established in the county are Broken up, and we are Destitute of Religous Worship, having No Home or Place to Live when we Leave the Plantations Returned to our Former owners;  We are A Working class of People and We are Willing and are Desirous to worke for A Fair compensation; But to return to work opon the Terms, that are at Present offered to us, Would Be we Think going Backe into the State of Slavery that we have Just to some extent Been Delivered from:

We Appeal to you Sir and through you to the Rulers of the country in our Distressed state, and Declare that we feel, unsettled as Sheep Without A Shepard, and Beg you Advice and Assistance, and Believe Sir that this is an Earnest Appeal from A Poor But Loyal Earnest People

Most Respectfully Submitted for your consideration–In Behalf of the People of Liberty county By

William, Toney Golden et al. to Col. H. F. Sickles, 28 Nov. 1865, Unregistered Letters Received, series 1013, Savannah GA Subassistant Commissioner, Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, & Abandoned Lands, Record Group 105, National Archives. The petition and all three signatures are in the same handwriting. It is not known whether the subassistant commissioner responded; the letters-sent volumes of his office for the period before February 1866 are not extant.

1. General O. O. Howard, the Freedmen's Bureau commissioner, had visited lowcountry South Carolina and Georgia in October to inform freedpeople in the Sherman reserve that the land they occupied was to be restored to its former owners and to establish procedures by which restoration would be effected. As a condition of restoration, landowners were required to “absorb the labor now occupied in tilling the soil,” and Howard had therefore encouraged the freedpeople to enter into labor contracts with the former owners. (See Land and Labor, 1865, pp. 404–6, 439–40, 445–46n.) He had addressed freedpeople in Savannah, Georgia, on October 26. (Savannah National Republican, 27 Oct. 1865.)

Published in Land and Labor, 1865, pp. 942–43.