On June 19, 1865, Union General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas. He informed the enslaved African Americans of their freedom and that the Civil War had ended. This momentous occasion has been celebrated as Juneteenth — a combination of June and 19 — for over 150 years.

The National Museum of African American History and Culture, part of the Smithsonian, is focusing attention on the post-Civil War transition of enslaved people to freedom by making the records of the Freedmen’s Bureau accessible online.

The United States Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, commonly known as the Freedmen’s Bureau, was created by Congress in 1865 to assist in the political and social reconstruction of post-war Southern states and to help formerly enslaved people make the transition from slavery to freedom and citizenship. In the process, the Bureau created millions of records that contain the names of hundreds of thousands of formerly enslaved individuals and Southern white refugees.

Freedmen’s Bureau Transcription Project

The Museum has collaborated with the Smithsonian Transcription Center to mobilize volunteers to transcribe more than 1.5 million image files from the Freedmen’s Bureau records. The Transcription Center is a platform where digital volunteers can transcribe and review transcriptions of Smithsonian collections. The Freedmen’s Bureau Transcription Project is the largest crowdsourcing initiative ever sponsored by the Smithsonian - its virtual volunteering!

Once completed, the Freedmen’s Bureau Transcription Project will allow full text searches that provide access to both images and transcriptions of the original records. Family historians, genealogists, students, and scholars around the world will have online access to these records. In addition, these transcribed records will be keyword searchable, reducing the effort required to find a person or topic. Transcribing these original documents will increase our understanding of the post-Civil War era and our knowledge of post-Emancipation family life.

Learn more and sign up to help: The Freedmen's Bureau Records | National Museum of African American History and Culture