Snopes Urban Legends site has the real story:
In January 1865, Union General William Tecumseh Sherman issued Special Field Order
No. 15,setting aside a coastal strip of land from Charleston, South Carolina, to Jacksonville, Florida, for the exclusive use of freed slaves. Each freed-slave family was to receive a 40-acrechunk of this holding, and Sherman later provided that the army could assist them with the loan of mules.
Sherman had no mandate or authority to give away this land, and in the fall of 1865 President Andrew Johnson returned the property to its former owners. Congress was never involved in any of this.
One would like for a former presidential candidate and keynote speaker to get his facts straight.
The New York Times slipped in their own bogus slavery reference. In an article about how the Democrats are aiming for the swing voters, they said:
We are stuck with a federal election system designed by people who did not want to leave the future of slavery to majority rule, and the modern technology of polling allows candidates to pinpoint the swing voters in the swing states - star pupils in the Electoral College.
This is a recurring explanation for the Electoral College - that it had something to do with slavery. This gets it reversed. The Electoral College gives small states a slightly larger voice than more populous states. In the 1780s, the most populous states were in the South, especially Virginia. Except for Massachusetts, the New England states were tiny and sparsely populated. They worried about the larger, slavery-friendly states dominating them. The compromise was congress with its two houses and the Electoral College.
In the 17th and 18th centuries, the South was were the money was. It took the Industrial Revolution and expansion of manufacturing jobs before people had a reason to stay in New England. The Northwest Territory also expanded the free states and changed the equation.
You would expect the nation's newspaper of record to be more careful about this. Of course, liberals have been harping about the Electoral College since Al Gore won the popular vote but lost the election. Had the election gone the other way they would be praising the current system for saving us from the agony of a nation-wide recount.