Almost thirty years ago I first learned about the Freedmen’s Bureau and the Freedman’s Savings Bank (officially known as the Freedman’s Saving and Trust Company).

While in college I was able to do further research on the legacy of freed Black slaves in America, and the one thing that stood in the way of their financial inclusion and the future of economic development in Black America more than one hundred years later— that one thing was FEAR.

The southern white “establishment” was fearful of what inclusion and development of freed Black slaves would mean for them (the former slave owners), and whether or not the tables would be turned on them— if the human “property” they enslaved for more than 100 years finally decided to “get even”.

The Freedmen’s Bureau and the Freedman’s Bank struggled and failed in 1874 (after 9 years) for many reasons, but what triggered their fall was the fear of seeing freed slaves rebuild their lives and join the competitive landscape of the country that they built through their own blood, sweat, and tears.

How could the enslaved now have the right and financial capability to own land and property, live by, and exist at the same level or above the same people who had enslaved them? How could they be as or more educated than the people that outlawed slaves from being taught to read and write? I’m sure for many white southerners, this was tantamount to blasphemy.

Today, the U.S. Treasury Department is celebrating and honoring the renaming of the U.S. Treasury Annex, back to its original name, the Freedmen’s Bank.

Yes, what most of us did not know is that although the bank failed and shut down, the building in Washington D.C. (the relocated national headquarters) was never destroyed. No one struck a match to it or bulldozed it. It’s been here hundreds of years later staring at all of us. Isn’t that ironic? Fear is only capable of doing so much. It is not all-powerful. It can’t hide for long. It can only destroy so much, but mostly it destroys itself.

You have to know the history to understand the relevance today…

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By Natasha L. Foreman

Two days ago the southern region of the U.S. was tossed, turned, and in some places flattened by tornadoes that destroyed property, took innocent lives, disturbed the livelihood of thousands, and caused sleepless nights for so many. As people try to breathe and take in how to rebuild from this catastrophe one thing that Americans and the rest of the world can say is that we will rebuild as we always do.


Ironically, with turmoil on our homeland thousands and possibly millions of people tuned in to their television early this morning (while I slept) to watch a couple, several thousand miles away, Prince William and his bride Kate get married in a stunning and breathtaking wedding that gave chills to anyone who watched his father and mother wed in the 1980s. I saw the wedding this afternoon as it was re-broadcasted (as I knew it would).

I share this wedding today not to overshadow the devastation in the southern states of the U.S. but to share what my dear friend John Hope Bryant always says, “rainbows follow storms…you can’t have a rainbow without first having a storm…” and with that I say to those in the south who are shaken, rattled, fearful, and in pain- know that your rainbow will come. Today Prince William has a rainbow over him and his new wife; a kiss from his mother reminding him that she is and always will be with him, his wife, his brother, and his future children.

William and his brother Henry were devastated when their mother’s life was cut short at such a youthful age in an awful car crash. In her memory, her honor, and through her legacy these young men have pushed through life (sometimes stumbling) trying their best to give to all in need, to stand as representatives of their mother and make her proud that she raised them well, and to show that even in a catastrophe we can survive and rebuild.


We wonder what the amazement is with the royal family and I now see it clearly, even though we have become so modernized and focused on innovation and technology, we still are rooted in old world traditions- we still come from a time and place where family means everything and where lineage and legacy is of great importance; where taking care of and having respect for your family name is a priority- and we silently yearn for reclamation of this tradition in our own country.

We yearn for this in a land where grandmothers are as young as 28 (and their children are unwed), where fathers are absent from the home, where mothers aren’t sure who the fathers are, and where “sexy” is wearing the least amount of clothes, dancing the “freakiest”, and having the “flyest ride”- instead of having the best grades in school, getting academic scholarships, and having respectable and legal careers.


We live in a land where children as young as 10 think they are “sexy”, girls call themselves “Barbie”, guys claim their “pimps” and want to “make it rain”, where gangs and drug dealers run rampant killing generations of all nationalities; where the elderly are cast away in nursing homes and rarely visited, and where our children are doped up on drugs for attention deficit and hyperactivity instead of raised, nurtured and counseled properly. We live in a land where we’re more concerned with what we are against instead of standing together in what we are for. Instead of coming together to rebuild, we remain divided playing the blame game.

In many ways the royal family represents what once was, not so long ago, so the world clings to them and their image as a sign of hope.


So I say again, even though the loss of life is the greatest from a single day of tornadoes in the U.S. since April 1974 we can and we will rebuild. We can and we will honor the memories of those who passed away a few days ago. We can and we will rejoice, persevere, survive, and strive in every aspect of our lives. Let us take this time to bring our extended family of neighbors together as we pick up the pieces and start anew.

Photo Credits:
Pictures of Prince William and Kate wedding: Natasha L. Foreman as taken of rebroadcast by PBS-WETA

Car and rubble in Tuscaloosa, Alabama: Amanda Sowards, Montgomery Advertiser, via AP

Birds-eye view of devastation at Rosedale Court housing community in Tuscaloosa, Alabama: Dusty Compton, The Tuscaloosa News, via AP

Teen mom: blog4parents.com

Copyright 2011. Natasha L. Foreman. All Rights Reserved.
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