Redistribution during Reconstruction and the broken promise of Forty Acres and a mule.

The Radical Attempt to Redistribute Land After the Civil War—and Why It Failed

The Radical Attempt to Redistribute Land After the Civil War—and Why It Failed

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Oct. 27 2017 5:57 AM
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What Happened to the Plantations?

How freedpeople pursued the dream of land ownership during Reconstruction, and how they were denied.

Davis Bend, Mississippi included Jefferson Davis’ Brierfield Plantation.
Davis Bend, Mississippi included Jefferson Davis’ Brierfield Plantation.

Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by Library of Congress, LC-DIG-ppmsca-10971 and Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography.

This is a free, full episode preview of Reconstruction, a new Slate Academy series made exclusively for Slate Plus members. To listen to future episodes, visit Slate.com/Reconstruction.

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After the Civil War, some freedpeople ended up owning parcels of the land they had worked while enslaved. By the end of Reconstruction, most of them had no land to their names. In the first episode of Reconstruction: A Slate Academy, Rebecca Onion and Jamelle Bouie explore how radical experiments in land ownership and redistribution both helped and failed freedpeople.

Their guest is Amy Murrell Taylor, historian at the University of Kentucky and author of The Divided Family in Civil War America.

Supplementary reading for this episode: