Forty Acres and a Mule

Clarence Williams, from the Gullah Geechee people living for hundreds of years in (on?) the Charleston islands, sent ELT a request for help. He wanted us to review their bylaws, as their land is being threatened by development. Here's the text of the document he sent:

Sea Island Bioregional Land Trust


“The Islands of Charleston south, the abandoned rice fields along the river for thirty miles back from the sea, and the country bordering St. Johns River, Florida are reserved and set apart for the settlement of Negroes now made free by the acts of war and the proclamation of the President of the United States.

At Beaufort, Hilton Head, Savannah, Fernandina, St. Augustine and Jacksonville, the blacks may remain in their chosen or accustomed vocations, but on the islands, and the settlements hereto to be establish, no white person whatever, unless military officers and soldiers detailed for duty, will be permitted to reside; and the sole and exclusive management of affairs will be left to the freed people themselves”

Excerpts from Sherman’s Special Field Order 15

The Mission of the Forty Acres and a Mule: Sea Island Bioregional Land Trust, is to promote Environmental Justice, Bioregionalism, Sustainable Development, Land Trust Creation, Eco Tourism, Permaculture, and Self Determination, Self Reliance, and Self Sufficiency through Grassroots Participatory Democracy on Local and Regional levels, in Cities and Rural Communities located within in the Bioregion.

This Bioregion is Ecologically known as the “Sea Islands,” historically known as the “Promise Land” of “Forty Acres and a Mule,” and culturally known as the “Home Land” of the “Gullah Geechee,” People. To the Native Americans of the Region it was once known as Guale (pronounced Wali). This land was granted as a Reserve or Reservation to African Americans, to support Self Determination, Self Reliance and Self Sufficiency for African Americans at the end of Slavery, and the beginning of the Reconstruction Era, so that African Americans would be truly Free, with Land Autonomy. The United States reneged on the promise, and sold African Americans out, to bring the Southern Confederacy back into the Union, after the war ended, and the assassination of President Lincoln. “Reconstruction” for “Freemen” Ex- slaves and Poor Whites, was overturned and White, Rich, Slave-owners were given “Restoration” of land, and re-admittance into the Union. This injustice resulted in a hundred years of Legal Discrimination (Black Laws), and Legal Segregation, until the 1960s.

Sherman’s Special Field Order 15 was backed by Congressional Acts that granted this Reserve also known as “Sherman’s Reservation” beginnings at Charleston S.C., along the whole coast of Georgia, to the St, Johns River Florida, thirty miles inland from the sea, and all the islands along this coast. This land was “ reserved and set apart for the settlement of negroes,” and there they would have “sole and exclusive management of affairs will be left to the freed people themselves” on this Promise Land. The borders of this Bioregional Land Trust is not only historical, it is ecological, beginning at the Santee River near Charleston South Carolina, and ending at the St. Johns River near Jacksonville Florida, along with all the Sea Islands along the coast of the Mainland.

The phrase “Forty Acres and a Mule” comes from the fact that this land was to be divided up into forty acres plots for families, and we were to be given a mule to work it, so that we could be self-reliant, and achieve self-sufficiency. The idea of the phrase “Forty Acres and a Mule, “ is the greatest symbol of the idea of Self Determination, Self Reliance, and Self Sufficiency in the consciousness of African Americans, passed down for generations. The “Promise Land” of “Forty Acres and a Mule” is our Bio Regional “Terrain of Consciousness,” and our “Politics of Place.”

Major Objectives

Promote Sustainable Development through the use of Permaculture
and Bioregional Management.
Develop a Bioregional Map.
Promote Land Reclamation and maintenance through Land Trust acquisition and protection. We also will work for Land Reclamation and the Reunification of the Gullah Geechee and the Estelusti (Black) Seminoles who are their Descendents that were exiled into Florida, and later removed from their land on the “Trail of Tears.”
· Promote and protect Gullah Geechee Culture, History, and Language through Classes, Speaking Engagements, the Arts, and Media.
· Promote the History and Geo-Politics of Forty Acres and a Mule through Classes, Speaking Engagements, and Media.
· Promote Environmental Justice by Community Organizing against the “Over Development” of “Plantation Resort” Development that is raising taxes, causing foreclosure of land and houses owned by the Indigenous Gullah Geechee People, and taking traditional lands used for Gullah Basket Weaving and Trade.
· Promote Organic Gardening, Farming, and local Farmer Markets, along with a Buy Local Campaign.
· Wage a Brown Paper campaign against Paper Plants that are polluting an enormous amount of land, air, and water throughout the region, and educate regarding alternative appropriate technology.
· Promote ecologically and economically sound Cooperative Development base on Spanish Mondragon and African Ujamaa Models.
· Promote Eco Tourism through Bioregional Bed and Breakfast, as and alternative to Plantation Resort Development


We understand the huge task before us, the needs of the people and land. The Gullah Geechee People have maintained sustainable practices of the use of natural resources as part of their African Tradition. Gullah Geechee Culture is the greatest carryover of African Culture in the United States. This rich culture and land is being endangered by “Plantation Resort Development,” and the Pollution of Paper Mills. These Social Ecological problems must be challenged, and eliminated, for the preservation of the People, Land, Air, and Water. A Bioregional approach to the problems of the region is direly needed to address them.

This Sea Island Coastal Region extending from the Southern Region of South Carolina, to the Northern Region of Florida, has a unique Culture and Ecology that must not be loss to Economic Plunder of Plantation Resorts and Ecological Pollution of Paper Plants. A Bioregional approach to Sustainable Development is its only hope of Preservation of the Land and Culture. To combat Plantation Resort Over Development and Pollution from Paper Plants, we will focus our attention on promoting humanly scaled Eco Tourism, as a form of Horizontal Development instead of Vertical Development that impact so much land.

Our vision is of a Bioregional Confederation of Eco Cities and Rural Villages working Cooperatively to achieve Permanent Culture, of Self Reliance, Self Determination, and Self Sufficiency. The fulfillment of the promise of Forty Acres and a Mule (as mush as possible) is our mission in life. Anyone interested in helping us to achieve our mission may contact:

Suleiman El Mehdi at 404- 914-5508 and 404 756-1055 or at:

Share this: