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Reverend Thomas W. Conway was assistant commissioner of the Freedmen Bureau in Alabama and Louisiana during the Reconstruction era that followed the American Civil War. He published The Freedmen of Louisiana : Final Report of the Bureau of Free Labor, Department of the Gulf, to Major General Canby, Commanding. Freedmen's Bureau activities in Louisiana began on June 13, 1865 when the Bureau's commissioner, Oliver O. Howard, appointed Chaplain Thomas W. Conway as the state's assistant commissioner. Another seven assistant commissioners would later hold the office.[1] Conway was superintendent of freedmen in the Union Army's Department of the Gulf. In April 1865, he was given command of the Freedmen Bureau's Alabama operations as interim Freedmen's Bureau assistant commissioner for the state. Conway reported on the horrible conditions African Americans faced in the American South including a lack of housing, food, and brutal attacks from angry whites. He appealed for funding from the North.[2] In May 1865 he adopted a set of labor regulations he drafted for Louisiana while under the authority of Major General Stephen Hurlbut.[3]

In 1866 he wrote a letter to the Chamber of Commerce of the state of New York seeking support for a trip to England he planned seeking capital investments for cotton cultivation projects he said would benefit White and Black residents of Louisiana and help calm tensions.[4] He issued a series of orders regarding abandoned lands, sick refugees and freedmen, as well as other issues under the Freedmen Bureau's purview.[5] Conway supervised the opening of the Abraham Lincoln School on the campus of the University of Louisiana (predecessor to Tulane University), a school for African Americans.

After passage of the Reconstruction Acts of 1867, Conway was no longer an official with the Freedmen Bureau but remained in contact with Howard and had introductory letters from Hulbert for a tour of Bureau activities in the South. He reported on assistance the Bureau and its officials were providing to the Union League.[6]

Conway was involved in Republican Party organizing during the Reconstruction era and was a fierce critic of Louis Charles Roudanez and lobbied in Washington D.C. for a switch from Roudanez' paper to the Republican as the party's official journal.[7]


  1. National Archives, online pdf
  2. Richardson, Joe M. (2009) (in en). Christian Reconstruction: The American Missionary Association and Southern Blacks, 1861-1890. University of Alabama Press. ISBN 9780817355388. Retrieved 24 February 2018. 
  3. Schmidt, James D. (1998) (in en). Free to Work: Labor Law, Emancipation, and Reconstruction, 1815-1880. University of Georgia Press. ISBN 9780820320342. Retrieved 24 February 2018. 
  4. (in en) Annual Report of the Chamber of Commerce of the State of New York, for the Year .... Wheeler and Williams. 1866. Retrieved 24 February 2018. 
  5. Representatives, United States House of (1866) (in en). House Documents. U.S. Government Printing Office. Retrieved 24 February 2018. 
  6. USAF, Major William H. Burks (2015) (in en). The Freedmen’s Bureau, Politics, And Stability Operations During Reconstruction In The South. Pickle Partners Publishing. ISBN 9781782899297. Retrieved 24 February 2018. 
  7. Houzeau, Jean-Charles (2001) (in en). My Passage at the New Orleans Tribune: A Memoir of the Civil War Era. LSU Press. ISBN 9780807167236. Retrieved 24 February 2018. 

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