Violence against Freed Slaves in Louisiana
of the Joint Committee on Reconstruction
Please state your name, residence and occupation.
Rev. Joseph E. Roy sworn and examined.
By Mr. [E. B.] Washburne [Representative from Illinois]:
Answer. Joseph E. Roy, clergyman; Chicago, Illinois.
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. . . .
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. . . .
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when the troops were withdrawn.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. . . .
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
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went into our church society, told me that if the troops were withdrawn,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.
. . .
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.
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.
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. . . .
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
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.
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.