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Forty Acres and a Mule: Reparations Denied

  • Broadcast in History
Anita Wills

Anita Wills


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Host Anita Wills talks about the gains and losses of African American's after the Civil War, with focus on the promise of land for freed slaves. Before 1861 the vast majority of African Americans had been slaves and had no legal rights of which to speak. In January 1865 an early attempt by General Sherman to redistribute 400,000 acres of abandoned rice plantations to African Americans was abruptly curtailed by President Johnson, and the self-sufficient African American community established under Tunis Campbell’s leadership on St Catherine’s Island, Georgia, also had to give up their land to its former owner in January 1866. With Cotton as a major export of the United States after the Civil War cheap and free labor continued to be a priority. This meant that blacks needed to be kept in the fields somehow. Most former slaves became wage-earning labourers and tenants. Various forms of sharecropping, share-renting, and crop-lien systems ensured that black tenants and croppers remained permanently in debt, and rarely got the chance to actually own their own land. When the price of cotton fell by nearly 50 per cent, between 1872 and 1877, the southern economy remained impoverished, and African Americans remained a deprived group within that context. The promise of land meant no more than the treaty's made with the Indians. It seems that any gains people of color make, can be rescinded at will, by the Powers That Be. The gains and losses have served to keep many African Americans in a reactionary mode. To some extent the struggle has continued even with an African American President. We will explore the historical implications of the Struggles of African Americans. Show is sponsored by Amazon.com, Notes and Documents of Free Persons of Color, and Pieces of the Quilt: The Mosaic of An African American Family. Check out the Kindle Book, a hand held device, to store, and read books. Tune In!! Listen Up!!