Photograph by Maven Photo and Film
On January 10, 1861, Florida seceded from the Union. The Emancipation Proclamation of September 23, 1862 did not lead to a large-scale exodus from plantations since many slaves were unaware of the event. After the Civil War ended in 1865, Blacks continued to live in Marion County as free persons. During the Reconstruction period, 1866-1879, lawlessness and chaos reigned. Intimidation tactics by former Confederate soldiers and sympathizers throughout Florida caused the Federal Government to dispatch troops to the region. The Freedmen's Bureau was created in 1865 to assist the former slave population. Many remained on plantations and were compensated for their employment. Most left and migrated to Florida's more populated areas. Ocala’s local Freedmen’s Bureau opened in 1867. The Freedmen's Bureau encouraged former slaves to submit applications to receive land under the Homestead Act of 1866. This law ended all cash sales of land in five public land states of the South and reserved the land for homesteaders. Ex-Confederates were not eligible. Over 3,000 Blacks filed claims in Florida, but they were often intimidated by the white population and many times abandoned the land. Such efforts were begun to ensure enfranchisement of the Black population but were diluted by the enactment of the so-called "Black Codes" laws specifically intended for Blacks. Restrictions upon the former slave population included vagrancy laws, regulation of weapons, and provisions for schools to be paid for by a tax on Black males. Due to these actions, the Federal Government again put Florida under military rule until July 25, 1868, when it was officially re-admitted into the Union.