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Congress Asked To Preserve Records

October 20, 2000

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Yellowing, crumbling documents that may be the only proof of former slaves’ existence would be preserved and cataloged under legislation passed by voice vote in the House on Thursday.

The legislation, which went to the Senate, would require the government to use available technology to restore the documents and innovative technologies to make them available to the public and researchers.

The records originally were kept by the Freedmen’s Bureau operated from 1865 to 1872, following its post-Civil War creation by Congress to help newly freed blacks make the transition from slavery to freedom. It supervised abandoned or confiscated land, issued rations of clothing and medicine, established hospitals, monitored working conditions, recorded marriages and set up schools.

Michael Kurtz, assistant archivist for record services, said the National Archives has 800 filmed rolls of bureau records that were located in the bureau’s main office in Washington _ a figure that does not include records from local field offices.

The records contain information on slaves, their owners, Civil War veterans, government employees, war refugees, plantation owners, teachers, doctors and anyone else who may have dealings with the former slaves.

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On the Net: Information on the bill, H.R. 5157, can be found at http://thomas.loc.gov

National Archives and Records Administration: http://www.nara.gov

Freedmen’s Bureau: http://www.freedmensbureau.com/

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