5 Takeaways From Special Report That Used Artificial Intelligence To Track Down The Truth

In the aftermath of the Civil War, a government program promised land to former slaves, a plan famously known as “40 Acres and a Mule.” However, almost all this land was taken back a mere year and a half later. Using artificial intelligence, through a Mother Jones report, a team of reporters, genealogists, and historians have tracked down the people, places, and stories long misunderstood and forgotten, unveiling the true impact of this broken promise.

Here are five takeaways from a special report that used artificial intelligence to track down the truth.

1. Revelation Of Land Titles And 40 Acres

Contrary to the popular belief that the promise of “40 Acres and a Mule” never materialized, the federal government did issue hundreds, possibly thousands, of land titles to formerly enslaved Black Americans. Freedmen and women built homes, established local governments, and farmed the land. But this was short-lived. After President Abraham Lincoln‘s assassination, his successor, Andrew Johnson, revoked these land titles, returning the properties to the former enslavers, Mothers Jones reported.

2. Innovative Use Of AI

Over two and a half years, a team from the Center for Public Integrity identified 1,250 Black men and women who received land titles as reparations. The team conducted extensive genealogical research to locate the living descendants of these land recipients. This effort utilized AI to search through digitized Freedmen’s Bureau records—a task that might have been impossible without recent advances in technology and the digitization of thousands of pages of historical documents.

3. Personal Stories

This project sheds light on personal stories that have been buried for over a century, highlighting the long-lasting impact of the government’s broken promises on the Black community’s wealth and property ownership.

4. Historical And Modern Context

The project not only revisits historical injustices but also connects them to current discussions about reparations and the racial wealth gap. The phrase “40 Acres and a Mule” has become a symbol of unpaid debt and serves as a rallying cry for those demanding reparations. The team’s findings reveal how the government’s ultimate betrayal after the Civil War fueled a wealth gap that persists to this day.

5. Collaboration And Technology

This investigation represents a collaboration between journalists, historians, genealogists, and technologists. The use of AI to identify land titles and the development of an image recognition algorithm were crucial in uncovering these stories.

Photo: YouTube screenshot, CBS News,

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button