Forty Acres and Maybe a Mule

by Harriette Gillem Robinet
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How did Gideon manage to get people to work on his farm?

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Throughout the narrative, Gideon presents himself as being able to inspire others towards his overall message. This is what enables him as a natural leader.  His initial characterization as a "soundoff" is reflective of his ability to wrangle the wills of others into a larger cause.  Gideon's outspoken nature allows people to gravitate towards him.  Gideon understands the needs of others.  In offering food and nourishment to others, Gideon is able to bring others into a more collective vision of the good.  Gideon embraces community and a collective sense of power in a condition where so many have reverted to individualistic notions of the good.  

Gideon recognizes that the fulfillment of the promises from Reconstruction will require a collective sense of identity.  This collective notion is something that makes Gideon able to connect to others, enabling him to get people on his farm to work.  Gideon does not replicate the power structure that isolates voice.  He understands that the failures of the past power establishment do not have to be replicated in the modern setting.  The idea of "maybe a mule" is a reflection of the contingency that Gideon sees as only possible if there is collectivity towards decision making.  This embrace of something larger in terms of how individuals are treated and viewed as ends in of themselves as opposed to means to an end is where Gideon is able to have others work on the farm without dehumanization and with a sense of dignity.  

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