Shortly after the abolition of slavery in 1865, Union leaders met with Black ministers in Southern Georgia to discuss provisions for newly freed slaves. As part of reparations for years of enslavement, the government set aside approximately 400,000 acres of Confederate land and divided mules left over from the war in what is now known as “Forty Acres and a Mule.”
There was one problem. Well, more, but let’s get to the obvious…
The provisions offered up to 40 acres of tillable land to an individual. Although difficult to pinpoint an exact number, the number of freed slaves reached 3 million. Needless to say, not everyone received reparations.
Those that did receive those 40 acres hoped that it would serve as a gateway to freedom and afford them to opportunity to break away from the bondage that held them tightly for so long. History tells us that this was not often the case, but as always, we found a way to make something from what we were given.
The meager 400,000 acres allotted to only a fraction of free Blacks paved the way for major agriculture in America. Sadly, only about 2% of farmers are Black today. Planting and harvesting for sustainability and financial independence has become a lost art among African-Americans. I remain hopelessly wishful that more people of color will choose to go back to farming.