Giving Compass' Take:
- Lindsay Foster Thomas explores how federal policy facilitated the accumulation of wealth through land ownership for White Americans after the civil war, but denied emancipated Black Americans the same opportunities.
- Why is land important for the accumulation of wealth? How can policy begin to address historical inequities in order to reduce disparities today?
- Read about why wealth equality remains out of reach for Black Americans.
What is Giving Compass?
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In 1865, The US government decided that newly freed African Americans should have a plot of land to call their own, and promised emancipated slaves “40 acres and a mule" to build foundational wealth.
The promise of the 40 has captured our cultural imagination for centuries now, but it was a very real thing. A government program first referenced back in 1865. The US government decided that newly freed Black folks should have a plot of land to call their own. Black Americans could launch their new lives, have income, prosper. That was the initial idea, at least. Meanwhile, right around the same time the federal government started making another offer. Through the Homestead Act, the government offered free plots of land to settlers who would farm them. Millions of white Americans took the feds up on it and did just that.
Today, there exists a tale of two promises made by the government. One kept, one broken, and what those promises have to do with the existing wealth gap between Black and white Americans.
Listen to the podcast on the racial wealth gap by Lindsay Foster Thomas at Futurity.