Nearly 160 years ago, Union General William T. Sherman led 60,000 soldiers on his “March to the Sea,” a scorched-earth mission through Georgia aimed at bringing the American Civil War to a speedy end. Soon afterwards, Sherman met with a group of African American ministers in Savannah to discuss the future. With slavery over and the war ending, Black community leaders told Sherman what their newly freed people wanted: land. Owning land is key to a more prosperous life.

Four days after the meeting, Sherman issued Special Field Order No. 15, which confiscated from Confederate landowners about 400,000 acres along the coast, stretching from Charleston, South Carolina, down to St. John’s River in Florida. The order, which received President Abraham Lincoln’s approval, redistributed that land — in 40-acre parcels — to those who were once enslaved. Later, Sherman ordered that the Union Army lend the new landowners mules to aid in harvesting their land. 

The “40 acres and a mule” promised to formerly enslaved Africans never came to pass. There was no redistribution of land, no reparations for the wealth extracted from stolen land by stolen labor.

I write about this piece of history to introduce our Finance Issue of UMOJA. What better way to spotlight wealth than to discuss homeownership, the need to save and invest for the future? CNN recently reported that the Black-White homeownership gap is wider than it was in the ’60s. Many problems contribute to low Black homeownership rates. One big reason is African American communities suffer from the impact of gentrification. Another … clinging to a keeping-up-with-the-Joneses’ mindset. 

Let’s get our minds right. Step away from the Gucci handbags and luxury vehicles that have zero value the moment you pay for it. Let’s leave healthy financial legacies for our children and your children’s children.

Read how Afra Smith, founder and CEO of The Melanin Project 2053, is sounding the alarm for Black America to wake up. Dr. Ruben L. Anthony Jr., president and CEO of the Urban League of Greater Madison, is on a steadfast mission to halt gentrification and establish generational wealth through the highly anticipated Black Business Hub. Meanwhile, Ray Allen recently resigned from his leadership role over the workforce team at the Urban League of Greater Madison to run Wisconsin’s first Black-owned financial institution. Two years from celebrating its centennial, Columbia Savings & Loan in Milwaukee stands tall as one of the trusted financial sources for Black residents seeking a piece of the American pie. Mr. Ray is going to keep the bank’s mission alive, and then some.

Read about this and much more in this edition of the magazine.

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Happy Reading!