Against the Grain

Emancipated, Unfree

Did the Freedmen’s Bureau, established in 1865, help the formerly enslaved, or harm them? Priya Kandaswamy traces the Bureau’s activities in relation to vagrancy legislation and the placement of Black domestic workers in white people’s homes. Labor discipline and white surveillance, she argues, took precedence over public assistance and meaningful forms of freedom for African Americans.

Priya Kandaswamy, Domestic Contradictions: Race and Gendered Citizenship from Reconstruction to Welfare Reform Duke University Press, 2021


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