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Ulysses Grant Statue — Unfairly Toppled, Or Totally Had It Coming?

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Image: Deaderot via Wikimedia Commons

We were delighted to see the Golden Gate Park statue of Francis Scott Key torn down this weekend, we’ve been complaining about that thing for years. Same goes for that Junipero Serra statue, because that guy oversaw a genocide of hundreds of thousands of Native Americans. But Friday’s Juneteenth statue-toppling also took down Golden Gate Park’s bust of Ulysses S. Grant, who defeated the white supremacist Confederacy, won the Civil War, and helped end slavery.

Should that bust have been busted up and bashed? Maybe, maybe not. Let’s take a look at the legacy of the former president Ulysses S. Grant and whether his statue was unfairly toppled, or totally had it coming.

UNFAIRLY TOPPLED: HE DEFEATED THE CONFEDERACY

Jesus, people, he defeated the south in the Civil War! The Confederacy was an openly white supremacist institution, and without Grant’s military victories over racist Robert E. Lee, slavery would likely have survived into the 20th Century. Frederick Douglass himself wrote, “To Grant more than any other man the Negro owes his enfranchisement.”

HAD IT COMING: HE OWNED A SLAVE

Ulysses Grant did own one slave for an approximate one-year period, about two years before the Civil War. The man’s name was William Jones, and there is little historical record of him other than his emancipation document from 1859. But yes, Ulysses Grant does meet the criteria of slave-owner. His own writings admit that “I never was an abolitionist.”

UNFAIRLY TOPPLED: HE DESTROYED THE KU KLUX KLAN

After Lincoln was shot, President Andrew Johnson put up with all the Klan lynchings across the south. Grant did not when he was president, enforcing the Ku Klux Klan Acts that “arrest and break up bands of disguised night marauders.” Hundreds of klansmen were arrested and imprisoned on a scale we have not seen since, but then the Klan became resurgent some 50 years later after that piece of shit movie Birth of a Nation became popular.

HAD IT COMING: GRANT ONLY ABANDONED SLAVERY FOR MONEY

Grant married into a slaveholding family in 1848, so technically, his family assets would have counted about 30 slaves according to the American Civil War Museum. Grant’s newfound family became a financial failure even with the slaves, forcing Grant to beg his dad for money.

“Ulysses, when you are ready to come North I will give you a start,” his abolitionist father wrote back, “but so long as you make your home among a tribe of slave-owners I will do nothing.” So Grant’s family did give up their slaves, but only because his dad made him do it, since Grant needed the money.  

UNFAIRLY TOPPLED: HE BELIEVED IN EQUALITY FOR NATIVE AMERICANS

Grant was very sympathetic toward Native Americans, was the first president to appoint a Native American to a federal government leadership positions, and pushed for federal funding for struggling tribes.

HAD IT COMING: YES, BUT THE GENOCIDE

That shit came to a complete halt once gold was discovered on tribal lands. Grant waged the Great Sioux War of 1876 against the  Lakota Sioux people of the Black Hills. “American Indians experienced some of the worst massacres and grossest injustices in history while Ulysses S. Grant was in office,” says Indian Country Today.

WE ALREADY TOPPLED THIS THING ONCE IN 1896

Last Friday was not even the first time we tore down that very statue of Ulysses S. Grant. It got toppled immediately when it was erected in 1896. Turns out that the base of the statue was built using prison labor, causing the local stonecutter’s union to lodge complaints. Mayor Adolph Sutro agreed and ordered the base destroyed, with a new base, but the same bust.

There is plenty of historical precedent for tearing down statues, we’ve been doing it for hundreds of years. Statues are not history, they are a reflection of how we see history at a given time, and it’s totally fair to revise that.

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Joe Kukura- Millionaire in Training

Joe Kukura- Millionaire in Training

Joe Kukura is a two-bit marketing writer who excels at the homoerotic double-entendre. He is training to run a full marathon completely drunk and high, and his work has appeared in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal on days when their editors made particularly curious decisions.

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