Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Ph.D. in History

First Advisor

April Holm

Second Advisor

Anne S. Twitty

Third Advisor

Paul Polgar


University of Mississippi

Relational Format



This dissertation discusses the connections between policies developed in the contraband camps and the policies enacted by the Freedmen’s Bureau during Reconstruction. It argues that that contraband camp policies created several models for Bureau agents to follow, and that Bureau agents failed to learn from the problematic contraband camps and enacted policies and programs that had already failed in the camps. In addition, it argues that the federal government failed to provide effective oversight for the camps, which alloindividual camp commanders to institute policies that often undermined the ability of the contrabands to gain economic autonomy, and that poor oversight continued under the Bureau despite a structured bureaucracy. To make these arguments, the dissertation analyzes contraband camps in Virginia, North Carolina, Washington, DC, South Carolina, Kentucky, Mississippi, and Louisiana, and also discusses the Bureau across the South. By including multiple camps, it provides a more complete analysis of connections between the camp and the Bureau and also discusses the specific local circumstances of each camp, such as the legality of slavery in Kentucky or the status of Washington as the national capital. Finally, the dissertation concludes by analyzing the long-term legacies of contraband camp failures during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries to argue that policies which originated in the contraband camps had consequences that lasted almost a century.

Available for download on Wednesday, August 31, 2022