40 acres and a mule


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40 acres and a mule

1. Something given by the government. The phrase refers to a promise made during the Civil War by Union general William T. Sherman that freed slaves would receive 40 acres of land and a mule. However, after the war that land was given back to its original owners. I'm doing just fine on my own—I don't need 40 acres and a mule from Uncle Sam.
2. A promise or assurance that proves to be false. I think he's just tempting us with that offer, and it'll turn out to be 40 acres and a mule.
See also: 40, acre, and, mule

Forty acres and a mule

A a government handout; a broken promise. As Union general William T. Sherman marched through Georgia and other parts of the confederacy during the Civil War, he promised freed slaves the gift of forty acres of South Carolina and Georgia farmland and an army mule with which to work the soil. Following the war, however, President Johnson rescinded Sherman's order, and the appropriated land was restored to its owners. While most citizens adopted the phrase as a metaphor for either any form of government handout (or a trifling salary or bonus from their employer), African-Americans who remembered the expression's history used it as a rueful reminder of a offer that was reneged upon.
See also: acre, and, forty, mule