Mississippi had been the second state to secede from the Union and the last to return. It was also one of the states where 55 percent of the population was black. Wiggin was most likely recruited by the Freedman's Bureau (Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands), which had been created in 1865 to assist the freedmen and the defeated white population. The Bureau supplied clothing, food and fuel, built schools and tried to protect the civil rights of the freed slaves. Wiggin's letters are very descriptive. They are at times benevolent towards the black population, but at other times overtly racist:
A negro is and never can be the equal of the white. My scholars have not one third that power of the mind of white children a the same age. Nor do they have that desire to learn… They are like their parents thick-sculled, dull of comprehension and slow to learn.In his letters, Wiggin expresses the ambivalence toward freed blacks typical of many Northerners of the time. He did not believe in slavery, but he had little faith in their ability to thrive in the United States: "I'm inclined to think that God made him to live in Africa, where no white man can live." His collection of letters offers disturbing and fascinating insights into Reconstruction era views on race.
To read all the letters in this small collection ask for Ms-236.