Forty Acres and Maybe a Mule

by Harriette Gillem Robinet

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What is the summary of chapter 15 in Forty Acres and Maybe a Mule?

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Forty Acres and Almost a Mule takes place after slavery has ended and the Reconstruction era has begun. The book conveys the attempts by newly freed slaves to become independent through land ownership and the white backlash organized to bring back slavery by another name. In chapter 15, this theme is shown through the “Black Codes” instituted requiring all ex-slaves to work on someone's land, in most cases for white landowners and often on the same farms where they had been enslaved. The character Pascal summarizes the irony of what was happening to the freed slaves: “Little by little they must have felt good about themselves that summer; now they were back to working like slaves.” Because some freed slaves had acquired the forty acres promised to them, there was still some hope felt by those who had settled and begun farming their land, such as Gideon City. The hopes of the African American landowners were crushed by the fires set that destroyed their school and much of Sherman Lands, where forty acres had been given to freed slaves. The events in chapter 15 demonstrate to the reader the powerful connection to the hope brought about by Reconstruction and the devastating loss of this prospect.

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