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40 Acres and a Mule

As the Union declared victory over the Confederacy, post-Civil War life seemed to be off to a good start for freed slaves. William Tecumseh Sherman, a former Union general, sat with 20 black ministers to develop a plan to remedy the harsh treatment of black people.

The phrase “40 acres and a mule” — a promise to former slaves — would be hatched from this meeting. Unfortunately, President Andrew Johnson would renege on this promise and many families never saw this promise come to fruition. While land ownership would have been a step in the right direction, negotiations robbed black families of an opportunity to invest in an economic future with.

In this episode of Black History In Two Minutes or So hosted by Henry Louis Gates Jr., with additional commentary from Evelynn Hammonds of Harvard University and Farah Griffin of Columbia University, we uncover the turbulent history of land ownership and the challenges black people faced in America.

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