In 1865, after the end of the Civil War, Col. P. H. Anderson of Big Spring, Tennessee, wrote to his former slave, Jourdon Anderson, asking him to return to work for him. In reply, Jourdon Anderson told Colonel Anderson exactly where he could stick his offer. This letter was part of The Freedmen's Book (full download in many different formats) which was distributed to those freed after and during the Civil War, so that they would know stories of other freedmen who had done well, including Touissant L'Ouverture, Phillis Wheatley and Frederick Douglass. The book was put together and published by Lydia Maria Child, abolitionist, women's rights activist, Indian rights campaigner and all around awesome person. She became famous in her own time for her cookbook The Frugal Housewife, but today her best known work is Over the River and Through the Woods. The Freedmen's Book was part of an effort by abolitionists after the war to educate freed slaves. The American Antiquarian Society has a great website about that movement, Northern Visions of Race, Region and Reform, which has plenty of primary sources and images galore.
40 acres and a mule has been a slogan of African-American economic aspirations ever since the legislation creating the Freedman's Bureau promised ex-slaves parcels not exceeding forty acres each, to the loyal refugees and freedmen. General William Tecumseh Sherman's Special Field Order No. 15 decreed that the land on slave plantations be seized and distributed to freed slaves, but Andrew Johnson rescinded the order and vetoed expansion of the Freedman's Bureau. Both Henry Louis Gates and Dalton Conley have associated the failure to grant freed slaves their "40 acres and a mule" with the wealth gap between black and white Americans, but now an economics grad student, Melinda Miller, has brought important quantitative data to the debate in a new research paper. [more inside]