The issue of reparations to the descendants of slaves is making its way to the floor of the House of Representatives where congressmen may soon vote on whether a commission be established to explore the matter. It is an issue that dates back to shortly after the Civil War, when Thaddeus Stevens championed a plan that would have transformed the South. But despite his reputation for pulling off legislative miracles, the plan went nowhere.
Known as “40 Acres and a mule,” the plan was to confiscate land from the richest rebels and give 40 acres to each of the one million adult black men who had recently been freed from bondage. Advocates of the plan said freed slaves needed the land so that they would not be subjected to the tender mercies of their former masters.