Lament and Hope: A Pan African Quad-Centennial Devotional Guide - Page 12

U.S. Land Dispossession
40,000 freed Africans were
settled on some 400,000 acres
of land in GA and SC. Later that summer,
President Andrew Johnson reverses the policy
and orders the land be returned to
the confederate planter oligarchy.
Lament and
Hope in Angola
A History of
1865 Migration,
Immigration and
Congress established
the Freedman’s Bureau
providing for the redistribution of
abandoned or confiscated lands
to freedmen (up to 40 acres). The
Freedman’s Bureau never controlled
more than two tenths of 1% of the
land in the South and President
Johnson’s amnesty proclamation
forced restoration of much of
that land. Congress shut the
Bureau in 1972.
Top: Recently liberated slaves, who had belonged to Thomas F. Drayton,
on the Magnolia Plantation in South Carolina. Photo by Henry P. Moore / Library of Congress
Bottom: Land Order for Richard Brown, April 1, 1865: “permission is hereby granted to
Richard Brown to take possession of and occupy forty acres of land,” situated in St. Andrews
Parish, Island of James, South Carolina, Berkley District. Source: National Archives
Rescinding the 40-acre promise to those who were recently enslaved and fought
for their country prevented them from becoming fully independent from their former
owners. They were legally free, but they were prevented from becoming financially
free. If the 4 million people forced into sharecropping had owned their land, they
could have started earning income and eventually would have been able to put
aside assets for the future. But sharecropping’s continual debt cycle made it nearly
impossible to get enough to eat, let alone earn money. Sharecropping continued for
three generations. These families were often hungry and/or poorly nourished, far more
likely to live in poverty than white people, and far less able to accumulate wealth.
Source: Bread for the World’s Racial Wealth Gap Policy Packet (
LAMENT and HOPE: A Pan-African Devotional Guide


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