Forty Acres and Maybe a Mule

by Harriette Gillem Robinet

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Who are the Bibbs family in Forty Acres and Maybe a Mule?

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The Bibbs family is a poor white family Pascal meets on the road to Georgia. They had been tenants on a farm in Tennessee, but during the War their house had been hit by a cannonball. The Bibbs family, like Pascal and his brother, are headed to Georgia to take advantage of General Sherman's offer of "forty acres and maybe a mule." Pascal is amazed at how kindly these friendly white people treat him; the fact that he is black does not seem to matter to them at all, and they invite him to sleep on a mattress by their fire and offer him a ride in their mutual quest to get to Georgia.

The Bibbs family includes the mother and father, the oldest daughter Judith, who is outgoing and does most of the talking for the family, and four young children between age six and infancy named Matthew, Mark, Naomi, and Daniel. Judith tells Pascal that on the farm their Pa rented back in Tennessee, they often hid slaves who were running away, and when Pascal asks if they are abolitionists, Judith matter-of-factly answers "No...we're Baptists." The Bibbs family's goodwill stems from a deep, abiding faith in God. Pascal and Gideon run into them again later on the road, and when they get their forty acres, discover that the Bibbs are their neighbors.

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