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Salem Freedmen's Aid Society Records

Salem Freedmen's Aid Society Records

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Collection Summary

Repository:The Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum 132 Essex Street Salem, MA 01970 Phone: 978-745-9500 Fax: 978-531-1516
Creator:Salem Freedmen's Aid Society (Salem, Mass.)
Title:Salem Freedmen's Aid Society Records
Quantity:0.25 linear feet (1 box)
Abstract:The records of the Salem Freedmen's Aid Society consist of record books, correspondence, a subscription book, and reports of annual meetings.
Collection Number:MSS 288

Series List

SERIES I. Special Committee for Freedmen in the Mississippi Valley
SERIES II. Salem Freedmen's Aid Society

Scope and Content Note

The records of the Salem Freedmen's Aid Society consist of record books, correspondence, a subscription book, and reports of annual meetings. The collection has been organized into two series.

Series I. Special Committee for Freedmen in the Mississippi Valley contains a record book and miscellaneous papers.

Series II.Salem Freedmen's Aid Society contains a record book, a subscription book listing members and donors, letters from teachers who went south from Salem to teach in schools established for freedmen, and letters from Peter L. Walker, a black teacher in Belton, South Carolina, and from Major William Stone in Aiken, South Carolina, who was supervisor of the Society's work in that state. Reports of annual meetings were published in a Salem newspaper, copies of which were pasted in the record book. The folder of miscellaneous papers contains a printed piece "From the late editors of the National Anti-Slavery Standard" (1865), the constitution of the Impartial Suffrage League (1866), and the incorporation act of the Firemen's Insurance Company of Baltimore (undated).

Historical Sketch

The Freedmen's Aid Society was founded in 1861 during the American Civil War by the American Missionary Association, a group supported chiefly by the Congregational, Presbyterian and Methodist churches in the North. It organized a supply of teachers from the North and provided housing for them, to set up and teach in schools in the South for freedmen and their children.

On December 11, 1863, a committee comprised of seven members was organized at a meeting held at Mechanic Hall in Salem, Massachusetts, to aid the suffering freedmen in the Mississippi Valley. Headquarters were established at 149 Essex Street, where donations of clothing could be received. The headquarters of the committee was closed on December 31, 1863, and the treasurer was authorized to liquidate all outstanding debts. No formal report of the results of solicitation appears in the collection although there is a handwritten (undated) draft of a report of activities, occasioned by the visit of Rev. Thomas Machin to the city to solicit aid for the same cause on January 7, 1863.

This committee appears to be a forerunner of the Salem Freedmen's Aid Society, which was formed at a meeting held at Creamer Hall on September 23, 1864, at which Professor Alpheus Crosby was chosen chairman. A constitution was prepared, the stated object of the Society being "to assist the New England Freedmen's Aid Society in fitting the emancipated slaves for the duties and responsibilities of citizenship." Any person could become a member of the Society on an annual payment of one dollar. Officers included a President, five Vice Presidents, a Secretary, a Treasurer, and an Executive Committee of twelve people, who together with the officers, constituted a Board of Managers. A schedule of meetings was established. Reports of annual meetings were published in a Salem newspaper.

In 1866 Peter L. Walker was adopted by the society as a teacher at the school in Belton, South Carolina, his salary to be paid for two months from the treasury. The society also supported schools in Aiken, South Carolina, and Williamston, South Carolina. Major William Stone, an officer of the Freedmen's Bureau stationed in South Carolina, recommended employing "native" Southern teachers rather than Northern teachers. The collection includes letter from Major Stone and Mr. Walker, the "native" southern teacher of the Belton, South Carolina, school, reporting on progress at the school. In addition to his salary, the society provided books, clothing, and other necessary supplies to the freedman.

At the annual meeting on April 7, 1870, a discussion took place as to the expediency of further continuing the existence of the society. It was voted that the society be dissolved and a committee of seven be appointed to continue the work of the society. On November 12, 1873, it was decided not to undertake further work because of a hard winter and the fact that the school was now under the direction of a "colored" teacher.

Index Terms

This collection is indexed under the following headings in Philcat. Researchers desiring materials about related topics, persons, or places should search the catalog using these headings.

Special Committee for Freedmen in the Mississippi Valley (Salem, Mass.)
African American students--South Carolina
African American teachers--South Carolina
African Americans
African Americans--Education--South Carolina
African Americans--Social conditions
Education--South Carolina
School social work
Schools--South Carolina
Social history
Social service
Salem (Mass.)
South Carolina
United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--African Americans
United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Civilian relief


Restrictions on Access

This collection is open for research use.

Administrative Information


Requests for permission to publish material from the collection must be submitted in writing to the Manuscript Librarian in the Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum.

Preferred Citation

Salem Freedmen's Aid Society Records, MSS 288, Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Mass.


The record book of the Special Committee for Freedmen in the Mississippi Valley (B1 F1) was a gift from the estate of T. H. Johnson in 1900. The provenance of the remainder of the collection is unknown.

Processing Information

Collection processed by Marion Clark, September 1996. Updated by Tamara Gaydos, January 2016.

Related Material

Salem in History Staff. " The Great Migration: African Americans and the Growth of the Urban North Primary Sources." Salem in History: The Science and Art of Learning from Evidence and Materials in History. SALEM in History, 2004. Web. 07 Jan. 2016.

"Freedmen's Aid Society." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Aug. 2015. Web. 07 Jan. 2016.'s_Aid_Society

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