President Ulysses S. Grant: A friend of Reconstruction

The first black senator and representatives in the 41st and 42ndCongress of the United States: Sen. Hiram Revels(R-MS), Rep. Benjamin S. Turner (R-AL), Robert DeLarge (R-SC), Josiah Walls (R-FL), Jefferson Long (R-GA), Joseph Rainey and Robert B. Elliott (R-SC)


Most people think of Ulysses S. Grant as the great Civil War general, who, along with his subordinate generals and commanders, Tecumseh Sherman, Benjamin Butler, Philip H. Sheridan, John Bell Hood and others, was responsible for the tactical decisions that led to the victory in 1865 of the Union Army in the Civil War.

Grant was also, along with President Abraham Lincoln and his War Cabinet, responsible for accepting African-American troops fully into the Union Army. There were nine regiments of colored troops from Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island and other northern states along with many black volunteers and runaways who joined the Union Army and valiantly fought for freedom from slavery for those remaining in bondage.

The number of black fighters has been estimated to be nearly 180,000 troops. During the Civil War, Lincoln never wavered in his support for General Grant and his tactical decisions, including his decision to use black troops and support staff estimated to total nearly 400,000 persons.

After the end of the Civil War and the assassination of Lincoln, Grant was elected President of the United States. He followed former Vice President Andrew Johnson; however, Grant was neither a racist nor a white supremacist.

His wife, Julia Dent, was descended from a southern slave-owning family, but Grant was descended from abolitionists. The few slaves his wife had been given upon her marriage to Grant were soon freed by him and paid wages for their work on his farm, beginning what became a life-long feud with his in-laws.

After the Civil War, Grant involved himself in the progress of Reconstruction. He and President Johnson disagreed on what protections, if any, should be afforded the newly emancipated black citizens of the United States. Johnson was more concerned with the vanquished Confederates, while Grant was concerned with the preservation of the rights that should be accorded the newly freed.

By 1865, the southern states began to incorporate Black Codes and full resistance to emancipation. The Ku Klux Klan and other hate groups were running rampant. The radical Republicans began writing the first Civil Rights Act. General Grant enforced them.

He was a firm believer that federal troops would be needed to enforce the new Civil War amendments passed by Congress: the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments to the United States Constitution.  Upon Grant’s election to the presidency in 1868 and his re-election four years later, Reconstruction was assured, though it never ceased being a struggle.

Credit President Grant and the Republican Congress with at least the following:

• The Freedmen’s Bureau

• The Department of Education

• The opening of the first United States Attorney’s Office, with the explicit goal of destroying the Ku Klux Klan

• Appointing Amos T. Ackerman as the first Attorney General who took his orders from President Grant seriously, bringing nearly 3,000 cases against the Klan, winning most of them in federal court

• Keeping counsel with Frederick Douglas

• Keeping Union troops in the former Confederacy to lessen the bloodshed

• Using General Sheridan to enforce the Reconstruction Acts

• Support for the integration of West Point

• Welcoming black Americans to the White House

• Appointing nearly 250 black people to important federal government positions, including Ebenezer Bassett as Minister to Haiti and James Milton Turner as Minister to Liberia

• Passage of several “enforcement acts” that aided Reconstruction and targeted hate groups for prosecution

Thus, history shows us in the struggle for freedom and full civil rights, black people have always had non-black friends such as Ulysses S. Grant who joined in the struggle and those who continue to do so. Good people are never alone. We must remember the need for useful coalitions and never waste our hard earned right to vote for our local and national leaders.

Attorney Jacqueline Hubbard graduated from the Boston University Law School. She is currently the president of the St. Petersburg Branch of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, Inc.

Leave a Reply

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

scroll to top