40 Acres and a Mule / by kevin murray

African-Americans have been given a raw deal.  While African-Americans are hardly alone in getting the shaft from our government, no other group of peoples were forcefully kidnapped from their country of origin under oppressive and inhumane conditions, and then resettled here as slaves (non-persons, considered to be only property) other than blacks.  And while not every black came to America as a slave, or was a slave, or suffered the indignities of having once been a slave, or are a descendent of a slave, the ill legacy of slavery affects every black and this continues until the present day.


The richness of a country has a lot to do with its natural resources, its work-ethic, and its success in trading with other countries.  In order to benefit from one's country one needs the opportunity to do so.  Those that control the land, business, education, money, employment, and the law, control the economic fortunes and opportunities of the public at large.  Those avenues of power and advancement have historically been precluded from most blacks and therefore these actions have ramifications that continue presently.

Martin Luther King, Jr. stated in his seminal "I Have a Dream" speech of 1963 that: "When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir…. It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked 'insufficient funds.'"

And therein lies the crux of the problem.  The United States has plenty of monetary funds and plenty of land, all it takes is the courage to live up to its vaulted promised heritage.  General Sherman issued Special Field Orders No. 15 on January 16, 1865, to whichapproximately 400,000 acres of land previously held in Confederate states was to be used for the settlement of blacks in that area.  Unfortunately, after Lincoln's assassination, President Andrew Johnson rescinded Special Field Orders No. 15 in the fall of 1865 and another promise made to the black man was negated.

Yet, today, the United States has the land and the funds to make good on compensating the black man for his unpaid labor, his missed opportunities, his injustice served, and the like.  To put this in perspective, the Federal Government currently owns nearly 650 million acres of land.  Additionally a precedent was set when President Lincoln signed the The District of Columbia Emancipation Act on April 16, 1862, which emancipated all slaves within the District of Columbia while at the same time providing compensation for the slave owner.  This compensation to the slave owner has never been matched by appropriate compensation to the slave.

Now is the time to do so with a combination of land grants and a general bond issued and back by the full faith and credit of the United States Government. Subsequently, blacks will truly be able to fully collect on the Declaration of Independence promise that "all men are created equal," and that blacks are endowed by the same Creator and therefore have, "…certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."