Post-War Violence against Freed Slaves in Louisiana
Report of the Joint Committee on Reconstruction
1866

Washington, January 30, 1866
Rev. Joseph E. Roy sworn and examined.
By Mr. [E. B.] Washburne [Representative from Illinois]:

1
Question. Please state your name, residence and occupation.
Answer. Joseph E. Roy, clergyman; Chicago, Illinois.
2
Question. Have you recently visited the States lately in rebellion; if so, what states have you visited?
Answer: I have spent the last three months, October, November and December, in visiting the south, embracing Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, and touching at Helena, on the Arkansas side. . . .
3
Question. What was the occasion of your visiting those southern States in rebellion?
Answer. I am [an] agent of the American Home Missionary Society, and was deputed by them as a special representative to explore the south in the interest of evangelical religion, and especially of that society, with a view to planting congregational churches where they should be wanted among loyal people there, and the newcomers from the church. . . .
4
Question. What was the condition in which you found things so far as regarded the political situation of affairs, in the State of Louisiana? . . .
Answer. . . . While I was there, the superintendent of education under the bureau for the State told me that four schools among the colored people had been broken up at Franklin, in the State, by citizens, when the troops were withdrawn. At Terrebonne, one colored school-house had been torn down and another burned after the withdrawal of the troops. . . .
5
Question. What seemed to be the general spirit of the people of New Orleans and the State of Louisiana, so far as you gathered it in their acts and conversation?
Answer. Well, sir, of course the people are not all alike. I found some true Union men of the old style--men who represent the Union men of the south, as I found them generally--that is, men whose love of country caused them the loss of patronage and of social relations. I found such men there that I could name, truly loyal, devoted to the government, and very despondent. Mr. B. F. Flanders, supervising agent of the United States treasury, elected last year to the United States Senate, with whom I had a very pleasant acquaintance, as he went into our church society, told me that if the troops were withdrawn, he believed the Union men could not stay in the city twenty-four hours. . . .
6
Question. What was the idea of the Union men as regards what was necessary to be done by Congress and the President in this state of things?
Answer. Their idea was that the government should retain the troops in the south for the protection of the loyal men there, and should retain and re-empower the Freedmen's Bureau, feeling that if the troops were withdrawn, the northern men would be driven out, and the negroes would be greatly persecuted.
7
Question. What was the status of the colored people, so far as you were able to judge from your own observation, in the State of Louisiana? How were they regarded and treated? . . .
Answer. Of course, just having been set free, they were disposed in some measure to enjoy that freedom; to go to the cities and see for themselves; to leave their old masters for a time. But I found them ready to make contracts where they felt sure that the contractor would keep his bargain. Many of them had been disappointed in the contracts they had made with their masters, who had turned them off at the end of the year. One editor (not in Louisiana, but in Richmond) told me he thought that one-half of the planters had broken their contracts with the negroes. At the several offices of the Freedmen's Bureau I learned of many cases of the failure of the planters to keep their contracts with the negroes after they had got their cotton in the bale, often turning them off in the face of winter with their families to support, and with nothing to support them. But the negroes were perfectly willing to make contracts with men who had been kind to them--the Yankees, as they called them--the soldiers, and gave satisfaction to all such persons. I found many cases--I could mention the particulars--where kind planters, northern men, had employed them greatly to the satisfaction of both employer and the negro, where they had both made money and both been satisfied. They are disposed to labor and abide by their contract with men in whom they can confide. But I found them very suspicious of their old masters--several cases of that kind. The negroes would want to know whether a northerner who had rented a plantation had anything to do with the old master; if he had, they would not work for him; and if the northerner controls the plantation, then the negroes will work hard and work satisfactorily, being glad of the opportunity to work for wages.
8
A great many cruelties are practiced on the colored people. The southern people seem to have transferred their spite at the government to the colored people who have not injured them. They charge the negroes with being exceedingly ungrateful, whereas, in my judgment, the white people are exceedingly ungrateful towards the negroes because they did not rise during the rebellion and massacre their defenceless people at home, but raised the produce for the support of the rebel army. . . .
9
At Jackson, Mississippi, General Chetlain, a federal officer, told me that within forty miles of that city, going out on an official trip, he found seven negroes killed. . . . He also said that in two months within his district of nine counties there had been an average of one black man killed every day.
10
Colonel Thomas, assistant commissioner of the Freedmen's Bureau for the State of Mississippi, told me that there had been a daily average of two or three black men killed in that State by the citizens.

Source: Report of the Joint Committee on Reconstruction, at the First Session Thirty-Ninth Congress (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1866), 63-4. Paragraph numbers have been added.

History Tools Home Historical Sources Handout Library About Search