After the government for generations to come.
After one of the most shameful time periods in America’s history, slavery was officially abolished in 1865, with the 13th Amendment (“Slavery in America”). During the reconstruction period, former slaves received the promise of “40 acres and a mule,” which would allow them to grasp a foothold in the post war economy (“Slavery in America”). However, the government did not honour this promise. This sense of lost hope destroyed all relationships between former slaves and the government for generations to come. Dwayne Alexander Smith uses Martin Grey and an elite group of African American men in Forty Acres to reveal the long lasting effects of government betrayal. Throughout the novel, Smith compares the promise versus the reality of 40 acres, the consequence on the past and future generations of African Americans and the plot to reinstate slavery to express the after-effects of government betrayal (Hoffman). Throughout Smith’s novel, Forty Acres, he touches upon the promise of Forty Acres versus the falsehood reality as seen throughout history. Smith uses Martin, the protagonist in his novel, to reveal the truth behind what is taught of the Forty Acres promise to young children through school and compares it to the reality. Immediately upon arriving on the premises, Martin is informed by Damon Darrell of the ironic name of the premises:Forty Acres. Darrell states the name is considered to be an inside joke due to the false promise made by the United States government: “The United States government promised that all former slaves would receive forty acres and a mule so that they could start a farm and become self-sufficient” (Smith 116). When the reconstruction period was taking place between 1865 and 1877, former slaves received the rights of citizenship and protection through the 14th amendment, but their rights were often ignored (“Slavery in America”). Equally important within the time period, were the actions the government took by asking former slaves what they needed to recover after slavery was abolished (Gates). The end result was their desire for land: “Give us our own land and we can take care of ourselves…But without land, the old masters can hire us to starve us as they please” (Olson). This land would allow them to live by their own standards and not get pulled back into their masters’ old ways (Olson). Union General William Tecumseh Sherman then issued the promise which would allot Forty Acres of land to each slave and a mule on loan (Olson). The reality of the promise would change the course of history for former slaves; however, no such future existed for these former slaves due to this government betrayal.In the novel, Martin goes on to refute the promise made by the government: “Less than a year later…the succeeding president, Andrew Johnson, revoked Special Field Order No.15 and took back the four hundred thousand acres of land that had already been deemed to the former slaves, leaving them with nothing but the rags on their backs” (Smith 116). This promise was revoked due to the outrage of the white landowners, ultimately leaving 40,000 former slaves without a home (Gates). Many former slaves were forced to go back and work for their old masters, dictating their lives once again due to this action. The form of betrayal by the government resulted in many hardships for the African American race by removing the option to provide for themselves and their families.The result of this betrayal left lasting effects on the former slaves by removing their shelter, food, health, and jobs. The promise, compared to the reality of 40 Acres, revealed a bias government betrayal towards the African American race which has affected every generation of African Americans since. After the falsehood of the promise, 40 Acres, many freed slaves continued to face consequences of slavery which often dictated their lives mentally or physically.The elite group of African American men used within Forty Acres reveals the consequences of government betrayal and the effects it had on former slaves and their future generations. The United States betrayal ultimately created a known hatred due to race, between the government and African Americans which has continued for generations. Smith reveals that the consequences and resulting effects of hate and anger are still seen within the present day as many African American communities, often resulting in the release of anger through violence. After Damon shows Martin his collections of objects, which had been used to capture and imprison slaves, he reveals the consequences of anger, which are seen through the present generations: “A reminder. A motivator. Black men have anger in them. Many are consumed by that anger and it ruins them. Just watch the nightly news or visit a prison. All my life I’ve used that anger to drive me” (Smith 35). Damon declares that the connections between African Americans and violence is a direct consequence of the government betrayal of their ancestors. Another consequence Smith touches upon is ‘Black Noise.’ During a conversation between Martin and Dr. Kasim, The doctor explains black noise through a story from his past: Black noise is screams…the screams of our kidnapped, enslaved, tortured, raped, and murdered ancestors crying out for vengeance…The screams of our ancestors haunt every black man’s soul,…a constant reminder that the white men not only conquered our forefathers but robbed them of their humanity. And because of this burden of shame and humiliation, deep down every man of African descent, no matter how rich or powerful, harbours a poisonous seed of doubt that he is truly equal to white man. (Smith 150)Dr. Kasim states African Americans are psychologically damaged and even within the present day, the consequences of the events that took place within the time of the betrayal will continue to haunt this race forever. Many of the former slaves suffered from a psychological illness called Subconscious Inferiority Complex (Saunders). The psychological damage is the feeling of inadequacy due to real or imaginary sources which can be so devastating, it can lead the individual to live a debilitating life (Warta). A lasting consequence of the Forty Acres betrayal has been anger and hatred of African Americans towards the government, for taking away their chance at creating a prosperous future for themselves. The betrayal of the United States government left lasting consequences on the African American race which ultimately leads to the elite group of men in Forty Acres and their plans to reinstate slavery (Hoffman). Forty Acres contains a dark plot compared to its seemly perfect exterior. This brotherhood plots to reinstate slavery, but for white citizens, as a form of revenge or an eye for an eye (Hoffman). When Martin arrives at Forty Acres, Dr. Kasim, the leader behind this plot, proudly states, “Here at Forty Acres black men are the masters and the whites are our slaves” (Smith 153). Martin laughs at the insanity of the plan which was just revealed to him as way to cope with the shock and confusion (Smith 153). These men believe Forty Acres is a place filled with duty, a place to make the white race pay for the crimes they committed against the black race (Smith 154). This form of revenge reveals the after-effects of government betrayal within the present generation. The brotherhood believes their ancestors were treated horribly and, as a result, use their powers in the present world to capture and enslave the white race. As a part of Martin’s initiation, Dr. Kasim reveals that Martin must partake in former slave punishment: ” Tonight, my Zantu brother, you have the honor of being the redeemer for our suffering ancestors. Pick up the cowskin…Twenty-five lashes, hard and true…No more, no less”(Smith 233). Martin is forced to whip a young girl named Alice who he has become acquainted with, and hears through her, the horrors of what happens to the other slaves on the premise.Throughout Smith’s novel he reveals the uncomfortable truth behind Forty Acres; the white slaves are raped, beaten, starved, and forced to worked and live within harsh conditions similar to the slaves in the past. Reinstating slavery is the elite group’s way of coping with the government’s betrayal and mistakes. Without the false hope of the promise, this group of men would not feel robbed of their ancestors’ possible future. This group believes the white race should pay for their betrayals and mistakes, the same way the African American race has paid. This betrayal has affected so many stakeholders whom ultimately have the course of their lives dedicated, as seen throughout the novel. Smith highlights the difference between races and reveals if not for that broken promise African Americans could have the same status as the white race. Revenge is seen to be one of the long lasting effects of government breatyal on this elite group which not only impacts their lives, but changes the lives of the white slaves involved too.Dwayne Alexander Smith demonstrates the long lasting effects of government betrayal through the comparison between the promise versus the reality of Forty Acres, the consequences African Americans have to live with in the past and present, and how all these events leads to the plan to reinstate slavery as a form of revenge (Hoffman). Throughout the novel, Smith uses promise versus reality to discuss the starting point of the government’s betrayal and how the reality affected the lives of former slaves. As well, Smith uses an elite group of African American men and reveals the consequences which former and present generations will have to live with as a burden. Furthermore, the novel reveals the plot to reinstate slavery as an act of revenge for the African American race, as well as their ancestors (Hoffman). Forty Acres by Dwayne Alexander Smith reveals the lasting effects of this government betrayal and how it has impacted the African American race. The broken promise of General William Tecumseh Sherman’s Forty acres and a mule by President Johnson has had a major impact on the direction of the black race in America.