Forty Acres is a family saga, love story and history lesson rolled into one. While Forty Acres is fiction, the subject matter is a real. African American land ownership declined by ninety-five percent in the twentieth century. Migration, infighting, discriminatory lending practices and lack of estate planning have all contributed to this decline. Can the Washington family avert their attention from their individual dramas of infidelity, gambling and jealousy long enough to keep their land from vanishing?
The title, Forty Acres is based on the broken promise of “forty acres and a mule”. But was there really a promise? Who made the promise and why was it not fulfilled? These questions are answered in the Appendix, which contains a history lesson and the facts about “forty acres and a mule”. This is a book that entertains and informs.
Folks sure do act funny, when it comes to money. No one gave the Washington family forty acres or a mule. C.W. Washington has risen from a sharecropper’s son to one of the largest black landowners in the county. But a stroke has forced him to retire from farming. Now he must decide what happens to his land. His children are coming home for the Fourth of July family reunion. Each has a suggestion, unfortunately, none of them agree. Charles has farmed alongside C.W. all his life and believes the land is his birthright. Beverly doesn’t mind her older brother getting the land, if he buys the rest of them out. Cecelia wants them to sell the land and split the money. And she hopes its fast, before her husband discovers how precarious her recreational casino visits have made their finances. Raymond warns of the conspiracy to dilute black economic power and opposes a land sale. What if one sibling is a successful businessman and doesn’t need the money, and another is in prison and can’t use it? And what about the startling revelation that one of them is not C.W.’s biological child? C.W. has asked his daughter Carolyn to sort out this mess. But she was planning to spend the holiday with her lover and make some fireworks of her own. Blacks left the land in droves in the early twentieth century and now represent less than two percent of all farmers. But wasn’t the civil rights movement about progress and options? The Washingtons have overcome drought, Jim Crow and poverty. Now comes the hard part… The reunion should be a time of fellowship and fun. But this year, along with barbeque, fried catfish and hand-cranked ice cream, there’ll be servings of suspicion, secrecy and greed. This Fourth of July, fireworks won’t only be in the sky.