U.S. Grant's legacy reborn in recent protests
Letter to the Editor
Last updated 6/18/2020 at 10:43am
Renewed interest in Ulysses S. Grant’s entire career, as evidenced by the recent documentary “Grant” and books (e.g. “The Man Who Saved the Union” by H.W. Brands; “Grant” by Ron Chernow), adds perspective to the current protests.
Grant’s primary purpose during his presidency — to save the Union and grant former slaves full citizenship — was to justify the terrible loss of lives he witnessed as Union general. He engineered passage of the 15th Amendment establishing African-American suffrage and sent troops to eradicate the Ku Klux Klan.
Unfortunately, only Grant’s popularity as the Union’s military savior was able to accomplish such measures; few Grant-Lincoln Republican party members showed interest in maintaining justice for African-Americans and Native Americans after Grant’s presidency ended in 1877.
Not until nearly a hundred years later was any new significant civil rights legislation affecting people of color enacted and that was recently watered down by Republicans. Meanwhile, the dominant US culture has progressed even more slowly toward racial justice than its laws.
Thus such depressing perspectives as “We Cannot Wait for White America to End Racism” (Time magazine, 6/15/20) are entirely logical.
Yet new hope looms. Youth attitudes are considerably advanced over their parents observed a pastor acquaintance dealing with Latino issues; that view is corroborated by my volunteer experience as math mentor in after-school and summer teen programs in retirement. And much greater diversity of current youthful protesters than in similar past protests, recently noted by ex-President Obama and local protest leader Renee White, especially adds hope.