Forty Acres and Maybe a Mule by Harriette Gillem RobinetLike other ex-slaves, Pascal and his brother, Gideon, have been promised forty acres and maybe a mule. With the family of friends they have built along the way, they claim a place of their own. Green Gloryland is the most wonderful place on earth; their own family farm with a healthy cotton crop and plenty to eat. But the notorious night riders have plans to take it away, threatening to tear the beautiful freedom that the two boys are enjoying for the first time in their young lives.Coming alive in plain, vibrant language, this story of the Reconstruction following the Civil War is one you will never forget.
40 Acres & a Mule
When the U.S. Promised Former Slaves 40 Acres and a Mule
As Northern armies moved through the South at the end of the war, blacks began cultivating land abandoned by whites. Rumors developed that land would be seized from Confederates, and given or sold to freedmen. These rumors rested on solid foundations: abolitionists had discussed land redistribution at the beginning of the war, and in President Abraham Lincoln ordered 20, acres of land confiscated in South Carolina sold to freedmen in twenty-acre plots. Secretary of the Treasury Salmon Chase expanded the offering to forty acres per family. In January General William T. Sherman met with twenty African American leaders who told him that land ownership was the best way for blacks to secure and enjoy their newfound freedom. The order reserved coastal land in Georgia and South Carolina for black settlement.
The promise was the first systematic attempt to provide a form of reparations to newly freed slaves, and it was astonishingly radical for its time, proto-socialist in its implications. That account is half-right: Sherman prescribed the 40 acres in that Order, but not the mule. The mule would come later. But what many accounts leave out is that this idea for massive land redistribution actually was the result of a discussion that Sherman and Secretary of War Edwin M. The meeting was unprecedented in American history. Three of its parts are relevant here.
By Libby Coleman. Democracy or hypocrisy? Read more. The South was smoldering. A victory for the Union forces was just a few months away.
Order By General Sherman Was a Promise Never Kept
Many historians trace the phrase to General William T. Sherman's Special Field Order Number 15, issued on 16 January , which set aside a thirty-mile tract of land along the South Carolina and Georgia coasts for former slaves and promised the army's help securing loaned mules. In addition, the Freed-men's Bureau initially was authorized to divide abandoned and confiscated lands into forty-acre tracts for rental and eventual sale to refugees and former slaves. Despite the efforts of Radical Republicans during the Reconstruction period, however, significant land redistribution measures ultimately were abandoned, and virtually all southern lands were returned to white owners. The resulting sharecropping system left the social and economic structures of slavery essentially intact in the South. The phrase itself continued to live vividly in the minds of most African Americans throughout the twentieth century, symbolizing to many the "unfinished business" of the Civil War. It thus was used to advocate the affirmative action programs that developed from the civil rights movements of the s.
The phrase Forty Acres and a Mule described a promise many freed slaves believed the U. A rumor spread throughout the South that land belonging to plantation owners would be given to former slaves so they could set up their own farms. Army in January Sherman, following the capture of Savannah, Georgia, ordered that abandoned plantations along the Georgia and South Carolina coasts be divided up and plots of land be given to freed blacks. However, Sherman's order did not become permanent government policy.
In the aftermath of World War II, however, the term began to acquire a broader meaning, extending to compensation for those injured by the actions of a state. Later, the U. But this payback was intended to be very limited. During the debate, then-Sen. And the law explicitly says compensation would only be provided to victims still alive in order to preclude reparations claims by the descendants of black slaves and others.