FORTY ACRES AND A MULE #2170
40 acres and a mule is the colloquial term for compensation that was to be awarded to freed American slaves after the Civil War— 40 acres (16 ha) of land to farm, and a mule with which to drag a plow so the land could be cultivated.
The award—a land grant of a quarter of a quarter section (a common homestead size of the time) deeded to heads of households presumably formerly owned by land-holding whites—was the product of Special Field Orders, No. 15, issued January 16, 1865 by Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman, which applied to black families who lived near the coasts of South Carolina, Georgia and Florida. 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.” There was no mention of mules in Sherman’s order, although the Army may have distributed them anyway.
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