In 1863, President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation. It called upon the military officials to accept his conditions of emancipating the slaves. It also gave ex-slaves the right to have a hand in fighting for their own country, by joining the armed forces. (Grant 1968, 118-19) .
In 1864, Congress passes a bill, requiring voters to swear they have never fought against the Union, allowing them to participate in the reconstruction of their state’s government. Each state was to include bans on slavery, disfranchisement of Confederate political and military leaders, and the elimination of Confederate state debts. (http://www.geocities.com/jigmaster007/unit4/question1.html) In 1865, Congress created The Freedman’s Bureau. The goal of the Bureau was to make sure that the transition to freedom easier for freedmen. They had numerous agents spread across the south. Some of their responsibilities included; helping freedmen to gain an education, obtain land, negotiate contracts, settle legal disputes, provide food, medical care, and transportation, establish camps for the homeless, and distribute rations. (Hine, Hine, and Harrold 2000, 262-63) .
One important issue for blacks was land possession. They felt that in order to secure their future as freedmen they needed to possess land. In 1866, came the passage of the Southern Homestead Act. This act set aside more than three million acres of land. (Hine, Hine, and Harrold 2000, 264) General Sherman issued an order to set aside a 30-mile tract of land, and within a short period of time 400,000 hundred thousand acres were being worked by freedmen. Howard issued Circular 13, which set aside 40-acre plots for freedmen. (Hine, Hine, and Harrold 2000, 261-63) Bureau officials set up the system of sharecropping. Under the sharecropping agreement laborers were compensated with cash, or product, worked as families, had no direct supervision, landowners provided materials, and workers received one- third of the crop.