BLM Chaos and the Need for History by Larry C Johnson

Lincoln and Grant Peacemakers

George Santayana is credited with first speaking the aphorism, “Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” And it was Winston Churchill that offered up a slight modification, to wit–Those that fail to learn from history, are doomed to repeat it.”

Put succinctly–if you can’t learn or won’t learn from history you are in a heap of trouble. Count me as an optimist who believes fervently that past events have bits of wisdom and insight relevant to modern life.

So let us look to the life of Ulysses S. Grant, the second four star General of the Army after George Washington and the 18th President of the United States. The superficial and uninformed version of “Sam” Grant’s legacy is built around the meme of drunkenness, corruption and butchery. But that account is unfair and grossly misleading. Grant, along with Abraham Lincoln, played the decisive role in bringing former slaves into the U.S. military and using the power of the Federal Government to combat the racial jihad unleashed against black Americans in the wake of the Civil War by unrepentant Southern racists.

Anyone who accuses America of systemic racism betrays him or herself as inexcusably ignorant. There is no room for middle ground on this. The facts of history condemn their advocacy of this nonsense. Yes, horrific examples of racist conduct, including rape and murder of black men and women, tattoo parts of the tapestry of American life, telling one tragic tale. But these accounts are counter balanced by heroic deeds from true patriots unwilling to ignore or tolerate those who barbarically attacked people because of the color of one’s skin.

While it is true that Abraham Lincoln began his Presidency in 1861 ambivalent about eliminating slavery and preserving the Union at all cost, he quit equivocating in September 1862 following the Union’s bloody victory over Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia at Antietam (aka Sharpsburg) and embraced freeing the slaves in the south as an essential policy of his Government and announced the Emancipation Proclamation. It took effect on January 1, 1863 and within months former slaves were flocking to Union lines and presenting themselves to bewildered Union Generals.

In early March 1863, then General In Chief of the Union Armies, Henry Halleck, issued an order allowing Union Generals to arm the freed slaves. Ulysses S. Grant, who commanded the Army of Tennessee, was one of the first to enthusiastically embrace the order:

“At least three of my Army Corps Commanders take hold of the new policy of arming the negroes and using them against the rebels with a will . . . You may rely on my carrying out any policy ordered by proper authority to the best of my ability.”

Ron Chernow’s account of General Grant’s implementation of the Emancipation Proclamation is profoundly relevant in light of many current claims attempting to paint the United States and all Caucasians as inveterate racists (see Chapter 13, GRANT by Ron Chernow):

In late March, Lincoln had dispatched Brigadier General Lorenzo Thomas, adjutant general of the U.S. Army, to confer with Grant about the plight of liberated slaves—the so-called freed people—and aid the recruitment of black troops, a policy that formed a natural sequel to the Emancipation Proclamation. . . .On April 11, when he arrived in camp, he was bowled over “by Grant and soon confessed himself “a Grant man all over.”60 In cobbling together black regiments, Thomas displayed a crusading style, delivering rousing speeches to counter deeply rooted racial prejudice endemic in the northern army. The bigotry was so ingrained that one Ohio soldier warned northern soldiers “would lay down their arms and unbuckle their swords” if Washington persisted in arming blacks.61 By year end, Thomas had plucked twenty thousand young black men from contraband camps in the Mississippi Valley and absorbed them into African American regiments. Grant placed the full weight of his prestige into coaxing his commanders to flesh out these new regiments.

All the while, Grant maintained his enthusiastic backing of Chaplain John Eaton, the general superintendent in the Mississippi Valley, who provided education, shelter, medical care, and employment to people in contraband camps, where disease and despair proliferated and mortality rates often ran high. . . .

“Just how much Grant would support the newly emancipated slaves became evident at a fertile spot called Davis Bend, located on a Mississippi River peninsula, about twenty-five miles below Vicksburg. Jefferson Davis “and his rich brother Joseph had owned huge slave plantations there. When Joseph fled in 1862, his slaves invaded the mansion house and divided clothing and furniture among themselves. Even before Union troops came on the scene, the onetime slaves already operated the plantation. Grant spied a prime opportunity to create a model community for blacks that would showcase their industry and self-reliance. As Eaton recalled, “It was General Grant’s desire that these plantations should be occupied by the freedmen, and, to quote his own words, ‘become a Negro paradise.’”67 Grant wasn’t responding to a Washington directive but undertook this on his own initiative.

The end of the Civil War in April of 1865 did not mark the denouement for slavery and racism. Many Southern leaders deluded themselves into believing they had won the war and furiously resisted treating former slaves as fellow citizens and Americans. It is true that the original version of the Ku Klux Klan rose up in the immediate aftermath of the Civil War as a secret marauding army, headed by Nathan Bedford Forrest. This secret cabal claimed the lives of thousands of black Americans and white Republicans who had gone south to work on behalf of former slaves.

Yet, in the midst of this new horror for the African American community, General Grant and then President Grant took decisive to fight for the rights of the former slaves. As General of the Army, Grant authorized martial law in Southern states and removed from office Southern Democrat politicians who had presided over riots and murders of black citizens.

When Grant became President[–following the disgraceful reign of the unrepentant racist Andrew Johnson–he moved symbolically and substantively to ensure the equal treatment of black Americans under the law (See Chernow, Chapter 29):

Grant appointed Ebenezer D. Bassett as minister to Haiti, making him the first African American diplomat in American history. The grandson of a slave, the Yale-educated Bassett had been principal of the Philadelphia Colored High School, where he joined with Frederick Douglass in enlisting thirteen black regiments during the war. In soliciting Grant for the job, Bassett wrote that his appointment “as a representative colored man . . . would be hailed . . . by recently enfranchised colored citizens, as a marked recognition of our new condition in the Republic and an auspicious token of our great future.”34 Frederick Douglass, who had entertained hopes for the Haitian post, graciously conceded defeat. “Your appointment,” he told Bassett, “is a grand achievement for yourself and for our whole people.”35 Two years later “Grant expanded this precedent by naming James Milton Turner as minister to Liberia. ”

“Grant’s efforts transcended high-profile appointments as he named a record number of ordinary blacks to positions during his first term in office.37 During the 1872 presidential campaign, Frederick Douglass toted up black employees sprinkled throughout the federal bureaucracy, citing customs collectors, internal revenue assessors, postmasters, clerks, and messengers, and was simply staggered by their numbers: “In one Department at Washington I found 249, and many more holding important positions in its service in different parts of the country.”38 Grant integrated the executive mansion, appointing Albert Hawkins as his stable chief and coachman; he also cared for a Grant menagerie that included dogs, gamecocks, and a raucous parrot. For his personal servants, Grant picked George W. “Bill” Barnes and John Henry Whitlow. The able Barnes had been a runaway slave who showed up when Grant was in Cairo in 1861 and had turned himself into an indispensable valet.”

Grant took on the Klan with U.S. Attorney General, Amos Akerman, as his point man. Akerman had fought for the South and was a Colonel in the Confederate Army. But that did not make him a racist. While in office as the U.S. Attorney General, he fought doggedly for the rights of black Americans and pursued the Ku Klux Klan without mercy (see Chernow, Chapter 32):

“On October 12, the anti-Klan assault entered a new phase when Grant, at Akerman’s bidding, issued a proclamation calling upon “combinations and conspiracies” in nine South Carolina counties to disperse and retire peacefully to their homes within five days.93 Five days later, when the groups did not disarm, Grant suspended habeas corpus there. Akerman explained to Grant the legal rationale for doing so: it was impossible to prosecute Klan members if witnesses dreaded reprisals. With habeas corpus suspended, those threatening reprisals could be held in custody long enough to protect witnesses and obtain convictions. Akerman greeted Grant’s move, saying blacks can “sleep at home now.”94

By late November, he informed the cabinet that  “he had taken two thousand prisoners in South Carolina for violating the Ku Klux Klan Act.

Under Akerman’s inspired leadership, federal grand juries, many interracial, brought 3,384 indictments against the KKK, resulting in 1,143 convictions.95 The conviction rate was even better than it sounded. The federal court system was burdened with cases and many federal judges, appointed before Grant, didn’t sympathize with the anti-Klan crusade. Furthermore, the act that created the Department of Justice had reduced the federal legal staff by a third and curbed its ability to hire outside lawyers as needed. With witnesses offered protection, Klansmen began to name other Klansmen, stripping off the secret veil that cloaked their activities. Many Klansmen, facing arrest, fled their states. Several hundred pleaded guilty in exchange for suspended or lenient sentences. Sixty-five Klansmen wound up in the federal penitentiary in Albany, New York. The goal was not mass incarceration but restoring law and order. To his district attorneys, Akerman made plain that more than convictions were at stake: “If you cannot convict, you, at least, can expose, and ultimately such exposures will make the community ashamed of shielding the crime.”

With the 2020 Presidential election drawing nearer, the Democrats have gone into desperation mode to portray Donald Trump as the reincarnation of the Klan’s first leader, Nathan Bedford Forrest. The Democrats want you to ignore the tangible facts that under Trump’s economic stewardship the unemployment rate for African Americans fell to historical lows. The Democrats want you to ignore the fact that Donald Trump, not Joe Biden or Barack Obama, pushed for and signed off on legislation that turned back the punitive criminal penalties that unfairly and disproportionately hit black Americans. And Democrats especially want you to forget that it was Donald Trump who pardoned Alice Johnson (no relation) from an excessively punitive prision term and reunited her with her children and grand children.

Most importantly, the Democrats want you to ignore the hellish conditions that blacks inhabit in Democrat ruled cities. The parallels of these Democrat controlled urban wastelands with the Demcrat run plantations that enslaved blacks in the aftermath of the Civil War is eerie and haunting.

Let’s face it. Donald Trump has now brought the Republican party back to its Civil War roots. In word and in deed it is acting to ensure equality and freedom for black Americans. The ghosts of Lincoln and Grant must be rooting for him.

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15 Responses to BLM Chaos and the Need for History by Larry C Johnson

  1. Deap says:

    I was surprised to see the very dignified and formal Gen US Grant archives in the Mississippi State University Library, on their very lovely campus in Starkville, MS. That prime location had to symbolize a great deal of healing had taken place – post bellum. In fact much of Mississippi today demonstrates that much of the former ….heat of the night ….. has cooled.

  2. optimax says:

    Trump is stopping the teaching of Critical Race Theory in the federal government, a theory which accuses all whites of being racist and blacks have no agency in their own failures. He is also looking into stripping fed funds from schools teaching the 1619 Project. Good for him, good for us. Biden will, if elected, bring all that back with a vengeance.
    I was, as I did last election, going to vote third party or for Pat Paulson but have decided to vote Trump. He doesn’t negotiate with terrorists.

  3. Diana Croissant says:

    Thank you for posting this. It’s good to have details like the ones provided here. I will have to find time to read more.
    As an ex English teacher, the major problem I faced with students was their reluctance to read much more than a paragraph. I was the child at our family table with a book on my lap so engrossed with my reading that I forgot to eat until, occasionally my Mom told me to take a bite.
    Television news with its sound bites and tendency to quote from “authorities” who are not necessarily that well-read has caused our country to become robotic repeaters of the newest sound bite.
    I’ll have to acquire your source for much of this post and read it thoroughly.
    I wonder if you’ve heard the theory that the reason for the break up of the Black family in some ways came about because Black women in northern cities were more able to find work in White households while Black men had more trouble finding work that paid them much. I’ll have to investigate that now.
    It IS important to get people reading rather than just shouting at each other. I have little hope of that happening in our current public high schools, however. Another reason to push for home schooling, charter schools, schools of choice, and so on. We have a long way to go in creating an educated populace.

  4. walrus says:

    Excellent essay.

  5. Mike46 says:

    Larry jumps from Andrew Johnson to Donald Trump, almost 150 years of American history. Why did you stop at Johnson? You could have at least gotten to the Democrat Woodrow Wilson and perhaps further. I’d like to see your revisionist tale beginning with the Southern Strategy, where the Reagan Republicans embraced the southern Democrats pissed off because of JFK, MLK & LBJ, to today. Mr. Trump is trying out his own Southern Strategy – it might work.

  6. optimax says:

    Never satisfied, eh. Write your own stinky essay instead of telling others what to write. You got criticism– say it like it is, Dudester.

  7. patriot joe says:

    trump is right. you guys are losers and stupid. as usual, trump is truth behind doors

  8. turcopolier says:

    patriot joe
    You are obviously right. Only a fool would volunteer to fight for people like you.

  9. Fred says:

    “The revisionist tale” begins with 1619, just like the cultural marxists want it to begin. The last thing they want is a balanced view of American history, and certainly not anything as recent as Democrat LBJ. Trump doesnt’ have a “Southern” strategy, he has a Greek one. Like Xenonphon and the 10,000 had when they found working for a rutherless oligarch to help him gain power would leave you stranded high and dry far from home surrounded by enemies.
    Today that is, metaphoricly, alive and well in the autocratic city-states of the elitisits left. NYC, Seattle, Portland, LA, SF and dozens of others. Submit and obey or be driven into poverty by government decree and BLM/antifa terrorism. 100 days of ‘mostly peace’ (but suddenly now even the left calls them ‘riots’) and counting in Portland and the ‘mayor’ has abandoned his condo just like he abandoned the people he was elected to serve as his political future as a democrat is over if he fulfills his obligations to something other than the Party.
    All well and good but the cultural marxists, backed with hundreds of millions in tax exempt oligarch donations, are promoting the neo-marxist line that America was founded in evil and are busy dividing the Republic on any line of differentiation possible. Almost a third of the residents in this country have no connection to the Civil War and certainly none to the founding. The left wants to erase actual history so as to prevent any sense of connection coming into being.

  10. voislav says:

    Since we are talking about Klan, it would be remiss not to mention the Klan revival in late 1910s and early 1920s. While the original Klan was a southern-based anti-emancipation organization, the revived Klan was based on a broader nativist and anti-socialist agenda.
    It is interesting that many historians tie the revival and rise in Klan popularity in 1920’s to the changing moral values of the Progressive Era, culminating in the Roaring 20’s. There are many similarities between that era and today, weakening labour movement due to low unemployment, increasing economic inequality and detachment of the stock market from economic fundamentals, political focus on the social agenda.
    This indirectly led to the formation of the Republican party as it exists today, as the southern conservatives of the Democratic party formed the conservative alliance with the Old Right of the Republican party in opposition to the Second New Deal. This realigned the domestic agenda of the two parties and created the North/South blue/red divide that persists until today.

  11. A.I.S. says:

    History is indeed a harsh mistress.
    One thing, there are several historical example of former slavers overthrowing and overpowering the masters.
    Well, none of these turned out to be particularly fun. Russia for one, did not exactly became a peacefull nation of happy tree friends after crushing the mongol-tatar yoke.
    Nor did the Mameluckes, former slaves who seized control of Egypt, were particularly reknown for being incredibly nice to be around
    On the subject of Mongols, well, Temujin was enslaved once. Millions would have lived hat he stayed a slave.
    Nothing that Black Lives matter has done so far disabuses me from the notion that they are jerks, and that their asshattery will scale quite linerarly with their power. Good thing that I dont see a Pyotr Velikiy or a Temujins amonst them though. For the most part, they seem to be preoccupied with some loot, some wanton destruction and some blackmail shenangians.

  12. Deap says:

    I wish we could turn the clock back to 1618 and never let slavery come to our shores and prevented these ensuing generations of unhappy resentful persons who now carry US passports – one of the most coveted possessions in the world.
    But we can unring the bell. We simply have to live with these very, very unhappy, resentful and angry US passport holders, and wish for the best. Ghana was smart – they are currently marketing come to Ghana where we want you; don’t stay in America where you are unhappy.
    Ghana would be trilled to have the importation of US skills. Just like the waves of European immigrants who came to America in search of a better life. If the door is open in Ghana, go for it.

  13. Bill H says:

    Are you aware that contributions to political organizations are not tax deductible?

  14. John Unhinge says:

    History is written by the victors. Truth is what the victorious say it is. The first governmental act that Hitler did was to outlaw usury. The second was to ban vivisection. Yet the usurers like to tell us that the National Socialists in Germany conducted invasive medical experiments on living humans!
    The victors always pervert the historical truth to suit their agenda. Consequently history can not be trusted.
    John Unhinge.

  15. Artemesia says:

    John Unhinge,
    Repeating a catch-phrase should not be allowed to pass for careful thought.
    What the Victors write is NOT history; as you say, it is disseminated to “suit an agenda;” often as not it is an alibi.
    In a wide-ranging conversation when Brian Lamb was in his prime, historian Thomas Fleming talked about his book, New Dealers’ War; he said that it takes at least fifty years to compose “history;” before that, what is proffered as history is actually emotion-laden (and agenda-laden) memory, and as most know, memory is most often flawed and easily distorted.
    Fleming spent a week as a guest in Harry Truman’s house, interviewing both Harry and Bess; their reflections on FDR were far different from the chorus of admiration that one most often hears about FDR: Truman said FDR was the coldest, most duplicitous man he’d ever encountered.
    It is as essential that “history” constantly undergo revision as it is that the individual consistently seek his own improvement and even redemption.
    History properly done applies logic, intellectual rigor and objectivity to hard evidence, and in earlier times, hard evidence, such as state archives and personal diaries and memoirs, did not become available for many, many years after the event.

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