The Short-Lived Promise of ’40 Acres and a Mule’

“What do you want for your own people? »

That’s the question Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton suggested Union General William T. Sherman ask 20 black ministers in Savannah, Georgia, as the Civil War drew to a close and enslaved African Americans were approaching freedom.

Black leaders gathered for January 12, 1865, meeting military officials at a mansion called the Green-Meldrim House. They explained that they did not want to live among white people because they feared it would take years for racial prejudice to dissipate in the South. Instead, they wanted to live among themselves on their own land. This would involve redistributing land from southern plantation owners.

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