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Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

CLEVELAND FREEDMEN'S AID SOCIETY

CLEVELAND FREEDMEN'S AID SOCIETY

The CLEVELAND FREEDMEN'S AID SOCIETY was one of several similarly named organizations that assisted, primarily in the South, the newly released slaves during and just after the Civil War.

The Cleveland Freedmen's Aid Society was founded in 1859 and was known as the Fugitives' Aid Society until the Emancipation Proclamation. It has been said that the Fugitives' Aid Society had two purposes. The first was its public stand, to assist slaves who had escaped to safe territory. This served as a convenient disguise for its second purpose, assisting slaves to escape via the underground railroad and supplying them with food, clothing, and money.

By 1863 the organization was primarily concerned with collecting donations of money and clothing to send to former slaves in the South. At the time of their fourth annual meeting in 1863, the society had 127 active members. The annual FREEDMEN'S FESTIVAL, attended by African American citizens of Cleveland (approx. 350 participants in 1865, for example), served as a fundraiser for this organization.

By the end of the Civil War the organization began to place a greater emphasis on educational efforts, as did similar organizations. The Freedmen's Aid Society appears to have faded out of existence about 1872. The similar organizations, some of which had primarily African American membership, appear to have lasted no more than an additional 2 or 3 years. Among these organizations were the Freedmen's Aid Commission, the Freedmen's Bureau, the Freedmen's Relief Assn., and the Freedmen's Aid and Education Society.