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Homestead Act

  • The promise of “40 acres and a mule” officially was made in 1865 when the U.S. government decided that newly freed African-Americans should have a plot of land to call their own. Three years earlier, when 90% of Black Americans still were enslaved, the federal government enacted the Homestead Act and started offering free 160-acre plots of land to settlers, mostly white Americans. A tale of two promises made by the government — one kept, one broken — that helps explain the existing wealth gap between Black and white Americans. | Episode discussion guides for this series available at waysandmeansshow.org.