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In 1865 Congress created the Bureau of Freedmen, Refugees and Abandoned Lands (often called the Freedmen's Bureau), and the primary goal of the Bureau was the education of freed slaves. With Gainesville's black population growing rapidly (it increased more than 1500 percent between 1860 and 1870), the construction of a school for black children was mandatory. In 1866 the Bureau established the Union Academy and the next year the Academy Board of Trustees, made up of local black leaders, purchased a lot for the school from the estate of Nehemiah Brush at the intersection of what is now Northwest 1st Street and 6th Avenue (Garden Avenue and West Lassiter Street before July 1, 1950). The frame building, shown in this photograph, was built on that site by black carpenters; they were supported by northern friends, the George Peabody Fund, and the Alachua County Board of Public Instruction (after it was formed in 1869). Costing $6,000, it was the second largest school building constructed by the Bureau in Florida. The building was originally only one floor, but a second floor was added in the 1890s. Unfortunately, no record of the fate of the structure has been found.
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