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1: Experiments in Land Owning

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


Episode Notes

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, Rebecca Onion and Jamelle Bouie explore how radical experiments in land ownership and redistribution both helped and failed freedpeople. Read Rebecca and Jamelle’s introduction to the series.

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:
• Steven Hahn, A Nation Under Our Feet: Black Political Struggles in the Rural South from Slavery to the Great Migration, Chapter 3 (“Of Rumors and Revelations”).
• Janet Sharp Hermann, The Pursuit of a Dream.
An excerpt from Sydney Nathans’ A Mind to Stay: White Plantation, Black Homeland.
An excerpt from Patricia C. Click’s Time Full of Trial: The Roanoke Island Freedmen’s Colony, 1862-1867.

About the Show

The era of Reconstruction that followed the Civil War was our best chance to build an American democracy grounded in racial equality. Its failure helps explain why race, “states’ rights,” and the legacy of the Confederacy remain central themes in our politics today.

Don’t miss Rebecca and Jamelle’s previous podcast, The History of American Slavery.

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