40 acres and a mule
40 acres and a mule refers to the short-lived policy, during the last stages of the American Civil War during 1865, of providing arable land to black Freedmen (former slaves) who had become free as a result of the advance of the Union armies into the territory previously controlled by the Confederacy, particularly after Major General William Tecumseh Sherman's "March to the Sea." General Sherman's Special Field Orders, No. 15, issued on January 16, 1865, provided for the land, while some of its beneficiaries also received mules from the Army, for use in plowing. Such plots were colloquially known as "Blackacres", which may have a basis for their origin in contract law.[clarification needed]
The Special Field Orders issued by Sherman were never intended to represent an official policy of the United States government with regards to all former slaves and were issued "throughout the campaign to assure the harmony of action in the area of operations." Sherman's orders specifically allocated "the islands from Charleston, south, the abandoned rice fields along the rivers for thirty miles back from the sea, and the country bordering the St. Johns River, Florida." Brigadier General Rufus Saxton, an abolitionist from Massachusetts, was appointed by Sherman to oversee the settling of the freed slaves. By June 1865, about 10,000 freed slaves were settled on 400,000 acres (160,000 ha) in Georgia and South Carolina.
After the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, his successor, Andrew Johnson, revoked Sherman's Orders and returned the land to its previous white owners. Because of this, the phrase "40 acres and a mule" has come to represent the failure of Reconstruction policies in restoring to African Americans the fruits of their labor.
See also 
- Three acres and a cow, a land reform slogan in Britain.
- Order by the Commander of the Military Division of the Mississippi
- "Reconstruction ... Forty Acres and a Mule" at American Experience website
- "Harmony of Action" – Sherman as an army group commander
- Buescher, John. "Forty Acres and a Mule." Teachinghistory.org. Accessed 13 July 2011.
- Alexander, Danielle (2004). "Forty Acres and a Mule: The Ruined Hope of Reconstruction". Humanities (Washington, D.C.: National Endowment for the Humanities) 25 (1 Jan./Feb.). Retrieved 2011-08-19.
- p. 948, United States. Congress. Testimony Taken by the Joint Select Committee to Inquire into the Condition of the Late Insurrectionay States South Carolina. Vol. II. Washington, DC: Government Priniting Office, 1872.
- Bills and Resolutions, Senate, 39th Congress, 1st Session Bill 60, Library of Congress.
- Significant Dates on Black Land Loss – from Federation of Southern Cooperatives Land Assistance Fund
- The Truth Behind '40 Acres and a Mule' by Henry Louis Gates, Jr.