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Letters from Cynthia Nickols and Lt. James DeGrey to the Louisiana Freedmen’s Bureau (1867)locked


Following the Civil War, recently freed people often had to establish or reestablish legal custody over their own children (or other young relative), and often found their efforts thwarted by the prevailing judicial system. In a letter below, Cynthia Nickols of Clinton, Louisiana pleads with the regional Freedmen’s Bureau office to release her grandson Porter, who at the time was living with former slaveholder Sandy Spears. Porter’s father, the letter explains, was serving in the military, and Nickols makes the case that she should take the child into her custody. However, as the following letter shows, a Lt. James DeGrey vouched for Spears as the legal guardian, arguing that the slaveholder had “raised” the child, and that “the old lady wants the boy [only] because he is now able to do some work.” As Mary Niall Mitchell notes in Raising Freedom s Child Black Children and Visions of the Future ...

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