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Monday, February 15, 2016

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A Labor Contract Made on February 23, 1864?

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Yes! That is right! A system of labor was organized before the Freedmen's Bureau was created.  In the State of Louisiana, Iberville Parish, under General Order No. 23, an agreement was entered into between Victorine Duprey and 31 named "negroes" for 14 percent of one year's proceeds from the crop of sugar and molasses on Victorine's plantation. The 31 negroes were not called freedmen as was the case with other labor contracts I have indexed after the establishment of the Freedmen's Bureau.

The Southern part of Louisiana was under the control of the federal government almost a year before this agreement was made. General Order No. 23 mentioned above refers to an order issued by General Nathaniel Banks, Commander of the Department of the Gulf, on February 3, 1864 as part of the wartime politics to institute a policy which paved the way for freedmen to realize liberties and earn wages while helping to keep order and plantation work going. See Civil War Book Review:  Binding Contracts.

I think it is wonderful that these records have been included. It would be interesting to research how much was learned from the implementation of this policy for the eventual formation of the Freedmen's Bureau. You just never know what you might discover while indexing.  I hope I am raising your curiosity by now. You can get a feel for the wealth of information in these records as you help make them available to the descendants of over 4,000,000 African ancestored freedmen.


The men were listed separately from the women. One thing that really stood out to me about this labor contract is how three of the men's surnames were given. I think it is because they all had the given name, Jim:
  • Jim Low
  • Jim Montesquieu (You would think I would be able to find him with a name like that. Can you?)
  • Jim Wilson


I was able to trace Victorine Duprey to 1900 where she was still living in the household with her father.  I tried to compare residents next door in 1870 and 1880, but I was not able to connect anyone with the freedmen on this labor contract. It is more difficult to discern who may be related on this contract because of how they separated the males from the females. 

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