The Colored Paradies

December 31, 1866


In his final report as Commissioner of the Freedmen's Bureau, General Howard suggests that there is too dense a population of freedmen in DC. There freedmen have thrived and created many institutions that lead DC to be called a colored persons paradise.


The Colored Paradise. In his last report as Commissioner of Freedmen's Bureau "for the District of Columbia and portions of Maryland and Virginia," General Howard expresses an earnest anxiety to get rid, somehow, of the too great negro population now crowded together in Washington and Georgetown. There are, he says, 31,549 of them. Subtracting 5,000 "who have been removed," he says, during the year, there remain still more than 26,000--"a much greater number than can be employed at adequate wages." Great exertions have been used, as this report assures us, to "remove" these people. Transportation is furnished; agents are employed to induce them to go away by flattering representations (always quite true--no deception here) of the easy life awaiting the poor creatures somewhere else. But go they will not. "There seems to be a great reluctance," General Howard says," on the part of the majority to leave even the miserable homes they have established here, and start forth to parts of the country new and strange to them." But if it was desired to discourage and thin out the colored population at Washington, surely it was a very singular way of setting about that desirable work to give universal suffrage and political power to the very people who cannot be employed at wages which will support them, and who are living in "wretched hovels, not fit for human beings." The colored persons are very right to remain close under the wing of that Congress which loves them so well. They suffer, perhaps, in their material interests--live in miserable hovels, and have not clothes to keep them warm; but they feel themselves amongst friends, who warmly assert for them the immortal birthright of freedom. Why should they quit Washington, the place which is peculiarly under the constant government and control of their philanthropic friends, and trust themselves away in Pennsylvania, where they will be kicked out of street-cars; or in Virginia, where their old masters have been emancipated from them, and are bound to take care of them no longer? Besides, they like the society of Washington (for there is no disputing about tastes), and when the "agent" goes to tempt them away from their happy homes and altars free, he is bound to convince them that they will be better off and have kinder friends somewhere else. General Howard himself, in the performance of his responsible office, is very humane and benevolent towards them: "has requested," he says, "the city authorities to have certain of these hovels destroyed as nuisances," but undertook at the same time "to provide homes elsewhere for the people inhabiting them." If there be an Elysium on earth tor colored persons, it must certainly be the District of Columbia; and instead of exhorting them to migrate from so happy a home, we would venture to suggest that freedmen in Virginia can do no better than go and establish themselves there. Congress is bound to support them, and has nothing to do but attend to them. The society is charming, religious privileges convenient, and in no city is there finer hog and hominy. Thirty thousand additional hands settling this winter at Washington would confirm and assure the colored interest and influence in the District and govern the metropolitan city.
About this article

Contributed By

Nat Berry




“The Colored Paradies,” Reconstructing Virginia, accessed December 5, 2022,