Southern Homestead Act of 1866

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The Southern Homestead Act of 1866 is a United States federal law enacted to break a cycle of debt during the Reconstruction following the American Civil War. Prior to this act, blacks and whites alike were having trouble buying land. Sharecropping and tenant farming had become ways of life. This act attempted to solve this by selling land at low prices so that southerners could buy it. Many people, however, could still not participate because the low prices were still too high.

Passed on July 21, 1866, the Southern Homestead Act opened up 46 million acres (190,000 km²) of public land for sale in 160-acre (0.65 km2) plots in the Southern states of Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, and Mississippi. The primary beneficiaries for the first six months were freedmen who were in desperate need of land to till. Before too much land was distributed, however, the law was repealed in June 1876.[1]

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  1. ^ Paul W. Gates, "Federal Land Policy in the South, 1866-1888," Journal of Southern History, 6 (August 1940), 310-315.