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After the Civil War, former slaves were given the opportunity to enter into work contracts with planters to ensure equitable payment for their labor. The Freedmen's Bureau (officially the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands) was established by Congress to supervise all affairs relating to refugees and freedmen, including the writing of labor contracts of planters/farmers with freedmen. The Mississippi labor contracts that are indexed cover the period 1865-67 and are taken from the National Archives microfilm M826 rolls (43-50). One additional roll for Tennessee, M999 (roll 25), includes a small number of Mississippi contracts; only the Mississippi contracts were indexed.
In 1860 Mississippi had 436,631 slaves; these contracts contain the names of some 36,000+ of those former slaves.
There are no contracts for six (6) counties: Amite, Claiborne, Greene, Jefferson, Lafayette, and Perry. For searches of a county created after the Civil War (Alcorn, Benton, Forrest, George, Humphreys, Jefferson Davis, Lamar, Leflore, Montgomery, Pearl River, Prentiss, Quitman, Sharkey, Stone, Tate, Union, and Webster), the parent county must be queried.
The contracts must include the former slaves' names (many times only given a name), where they were working (usually a county but sometimes also a plantation), age (not always given), family relationships (given infrequently), their employers (planter), terms of their pay (whether in money or crops or both), and in some instances, comments on their health. The terms of the pay are not included in the database.
Searches can be made four ways. The search may also be qualified by specifying a county.