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 pose to 20 Black pastors in Savannah, Georgia, as the Civil War neared its end and enslaved African Americans neared freedom.

The Black leaders gathered for the January 12, 1865, meeting with the military officials in a mansion called the Green-Meldrim House. They explained that they didn’t want to live among white people, as they feared it would take years for racial prejudice to dissipate in the South. Instead, they wished to live amongst themselves on their own land. That would entail redistributing the land of Southern plantation owners.

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