My second post from my book “RACISM and HATE: an AMERICAN REALITY” involving the “Economic Inequality” debate that’s front and center in the country today,is perhaps the most devastating and longest lasting of all of the injustices that occurred during the hundred years after the Civil War.
This is the story of “The Southern Homestead Act of 1866″
During and after the civil war President Abraham Lincoln and the Republicans was in consultation with the various groups who were advocating for the overthrow of slavery including several free Black leaders like Frederick Douglass and Sojourner Truth and a host of White Abolitionists groups from the North. They were seeking answers to how best to deal with the 5 million Americans of African descent that would be set free and how best to assimilate them into the American society as free people after the Civil War was over.
Frederick Douglass, in one of these consultation sessions with President Lincoln informed him that the newly freed Americans of African descent would need three things first and education, second, access to real estate, and three, access to some capital.
Of course President Lincoln was assassinated just as the war ended and did not have a chance to personally act on the recommendations, however , the Republican controlled Congress did in fact act on quite a few of those recommendations. First they set up the “freed Men Bureau” a quasi-federal agency set up to deal with the needs of the newly freed Americans of African descent.
The task which included, among other things, setting up schools, helping to negotiate contracts with land owners and helping them to acquire ownership of land.
Then the Republican-controlled Congress passed into law “The Southern Homestead Act” in 1866 and President Andrew Johnson signed it into law on June 21 of 1866. This Law set aside 46,000,000 acres of real estate in five southern states, Alabama, Mississippi, Florida, Louisiana, and Arkansas, primarily for the benefit of the newly freed Americans of African descent.
Due in large part to the” Separate but Equal” discriminatory, Jim Crow laws that was put in place, Americans of African descent were prevented from acquiring this land in any appreciable amount. The South fought tooth and nail against “The Southern Homestead Act” for the entire 10 years of its existence until they worked out a deal with the Northern Industrialists and got it repealed in 1876 returning over 43,000,000 acres of the property to the federal government un- claimed.
Property, which by the way, was later gobbled up by Northern Industrialists and others Capitalist in the South , who robbed the property of its timber and made billions of dollars off it.
The denial of access to this real estate to some 5 million Americans of African descent , which has been estimated, could have supported 2 1/2 million people with over 10,000,000 acres left over, dealt a severe blow to the economic foundation that was necessary for the newly freed people to assimilate on a somewhat more equal basis into the rest of the free society.
This initial denial of access to real estate set aside in “The Southern Homestead Act of 1866” plays a large role in the “Economic Inequality” that exists in the country today.
Read the full story in my bookRACISM and HATE:an AMERICAN REALITY