The Formerly Enslaved Household of the Grant Family (2022)

Women are often overlooked in history for their role in the institution of slavery. First Lady Julia Dent Grant, wife of President Ulysses S. Grant, was a steadfast slave mistress for more than half of her life—an often forgotten part of her identity. Though Grant himself grew up in an abolitionist family in the free state of Ohio, his marriage to Julia Dent led him to become involved in slavery while the two lived in Missouri on Julia’s family estate. As a result, Ulysses Grant was the last U.S. president to have owned an enslaved individual. Grant’s legacy as the respected Commanding General of the Union Army, and his efforts as president to protect black citizenship have long obscured his personal slave-ownership, as well as that of his beloved wife.

Julia Dent Grant’s interactions with slavery are well-documented in her personal memoirs, first published in 1975. Her father, Frederick Dent, purchased a plantation in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1820.1 The plantation, called White Haven, ran using enslaved labor; Dent oversaw a workforce of approximately thirty enslaved individuals on two Missouri properties.2 In 1830, when Julia was only four years old, there were at least eighteen enslaved individuals at White Haven.3 In her reminiscences, she described growing up surrounded by enslaved servants like Henrietta, Sue, and Jeff, whom she considered playmates during her childhood, before assuming control over them in adulthood:

We always had a dusky train of from eight to ten little colored girls of all hues, and these little colored girls were allowed to accompany us… we would wander by the brookside, catch minnows with pin-hooks…I, being of very provident nature, required these little maids to each carry a bucket to bring home my captives.4

The Formerly Enslaved Household of the Grant Family (1) Show Me More

It was common for slave owners to allow their children to play with enslaved children who were close in age. These childhood years were formative periods where “white girls practiced techniques of slave discipline and management, made mistakes and learned from them, modified their behavior to meet various conditions, and ultimately decided what kind of slave owners they wanted to become.”5 Mary Robinson, the enslaved cook, along with Rose and Kitty, enslaved “nurses,” also played important roles in Julia’s upbringing.6

Ulysses S. Grant’s childhood was vastly different from Julia’s. Born in Ohio to Methodist parents, he was not raised with nor surrounded by the institution of slavery. His father, Jesse Root Grant, was an abolitionist who taught his son that slavery was cruel and immoral. Grant received a formal education and later enrolled at the United States Military Academy at West Point, where he befriended Julia Grant’s brother, Frederick “Fred” Tracy Dent. Fred was Ulysses Grant’s roommate at West Point, and the two became good friends during their time at school. After graduating in 1843, the U.S. Army stationed Brevet Second Lieutenant Grant in St. Louis; while in Missouri, Grant visited his old friend at his plantation, White Haven. There, Ulysses Grant met and fell in love with Julia Dent, and the two became engaged a year later. However, Grant’s military duties in the Mexican-American War led to a four-year separation; the two finally married in 1848.

After Grant resigned from the U.S. Army in 1854, he faced financial hardship. Having received eighty acres of land as a wedding gift from Julia’s father, the Grants returned to Missouri to live off the land. There, Ulysses Grant became increasingly involved in slavery at White Haven. Grant farmed alongside enslaved field workers daily, while also working with them to build a new home—this log cabin would come to be known as “Hardscrabble.”7 Grant left no record of how he felt about his new proximity to the institution of slavery, but he and Julia benefitted from their free labor after moving to White Haven.

The Formerly Enslaved Household of the Grant Family (2) Show Me More

(Video) The Jay Family of New York: Abolition, Slavery, and an Enslaved Woman Named Abigail

These experiences working alongside enslaved individuals may have taught Grant how to supervise and discipline enslaved workers under his stead. The Dents were adept slave owners, with years of experience controlling the enslaved labor population at White Haven. Grant’s agricultural training under the Dents would have included many lessons regarding both farm and labor management, as Grant’s Ohio upbringing would not have prepared him for these tasks. According to historian William S. McFeely, Grant “tried to mold himself into the kind of farmer-planter his father-in-law was.”8 With these aspirations came slave-ownership, whether Grant approved of the practice or not.

Between 1857 and 1859, Julia’s father—aging and widowed—granted Ulysses Grant almost complete oversight of White Haven and the enslaved laborers there, truly testing Grant’s newfound knowledge of farming and labor management.9 A letter from Grant to his sister, Mary, in 1858 describes the progress he had made at White Haven in the supervision of both crops and enslaved people: “I now have three negro men, two hired by the year and one of Mr. Dents, which, with my own help, I think, will enable me to do my farming pretty well.”10 Though impossible to know how Grant felt about these interactions, Julia’s sister, Emma Dent Casey, wrote that “although I know that he [Grant] was opposed to human slavery as an institution I do not think that he was at any time a very rank abolitionist or that he opposed it so violently that the acceptance of Julia’s slaves had to be forced upon him.”11

Grant’s involvement in slavery eventually went beyond the “acceptance” and management of the Dent family’s enslaved laborers — Grant himself came into ownership of a man named William Jones from his father-in-law at some point during the 1850s.12 While there are no known documents or letters related to a bill of sale, Grant later emancipated Jones in 1859. The motivation behind this is unclear; with a number of enslaved individuals already at his disposal at White Haven and larger financial troubles, it seems unusual that Grant elected to become a slave owner. Whatever the reason, Grant assumed a more personal but short-lived role in the perpetuation of human bondage. On March 29, 1859, U.S. Grant manumitted “my negro man William, sometimes called William Jones, of Mulatto complexion, aged about thirty-five years…being the same slave purchased by me of Frederick Dent.”13 Many historians have pointed out Grant’s choice to manumit William Jones rather than sell him in a time of financial hardship for his family. Ronald C. White wrote that “Grant could have received at least $1,000 for this slave if he’d tried to sell him… at this point he could have surely used the money.”14

In 1859, Grant’s financial problems (worsened by a bad harvest and a national economic panic that began two years earlier) led him to relocate his wife and four children to St. Louis.15 At this time, Julia asserted ownership of four enslaved individuals “gifted” to her by her father: Eliza, Dan, Julia (Jules), and John. Her legal proprietorship is unclear due to lack of documentation; it is likely that the enslaved individuals remained under her father’s legal ownership, and that he allowed Julia to utilize their labor as she began to manage her own household. In any case, she presented herself as a slave mistress and brought these individuals with her to St. Louis. According to Julia, these four enslaved people “were young, ranging from eighteen to twelve years of age. They were born at the old farm and were excellent, though so young.”16 While Julia managed Eliza, Dan, Jules, and John, Ulysses benefitted from the home they cleaned, the food they cooked, and the care they provided for his children.

As the Grant family’s financial situation worsened, Ulysses Grant decided to move to Galena, Illinois in 1860, to take a job promised to him at his family’s leather shop. To Julia’s disappointment, she had to hire out Jules, Dan, John and Eliza to “persons whom we knew and who promised to be kind to them.”17 Though Julia did not want to be separated from them, Illinois was a free state, and should they be emancipated, her father reminded her in a letter that she could not “do without servants.”18 Colonel Dent was correct; Julia’s dependence upon enslaved people became obvious during their absence. In her memoirs, she describes the revelations she had upon assuming domestic independence in Illinois; namely, Julia realized she did not know how to sew, cook, or care for her ailing children. One incident occurred when Julia attempted to make Maryland biscuits for Grant’s family in Galena. She complained in her memoir that “they were not at all like home biscuits… I presume that the cook would have done better if I had ever prepared any before… I had only cut out small cakes with my thimble from the dough prepared by my black Mammy.”19 Later, when Julia’s youngest son, Jesse, fell down a flight of stairs, she lamented that “I wished then I had never come to Illinois, nor left my faithful nurse [Jules].”20

(Video) Liberty's Chain: The Jay Family, Slavery, and Emancipation

Mrs. Grant did not have to survive without Jules for long. Although the fates of Dan, Eliza, and John are unknown, it is clear that upon leaving Illinois Julia reclaimed control of Jules, her most trusted enslaved nurse, when Ulysses Grant became a Colonel in the Union Army at the start of the American Civil War in 1861. As Grant rose through the ranks, ultimately assuming his position as Commanding General, Julia followed Grant through battle-ridden cities across America, with Jules in tow. In fact, Julia wrote in her memoirs that Jules “came very near being captured at Holly Springs.”21 This memoir entry demonstrates one way that Julia put Jules in harm’s way without her consent, but their proximity to battle also put them both in danger of imprisonment, disease, and death every day. Moreover, Jules’ status as a black woman created a heightened risk at the hands of Confederate soldiers, known to treat African-American prisoners more violently than their white counterparts.22

The Formerly Enslaved Household of the Grant Family (4) Show Me More

Unsurprisingly, Julia’s use of enslaved labor did not go unnoticed, especially as the wife of a Union officer. In 1862, Chicago Sunday Tribune Magazine reported: “Until we can secure pure men in habits and men without secesh [secessionist] wives with their own little slaves to wait upon them, which is a fact here in this camp with Mrs. Grant, our country is lost.”23

In 1863, the Emancipation Proclamation granted freedom to enslaved individuals in Confederate-held territory, but Missouri, a border state during the Civil War, was exempt from this act. As a result, Jules remained in bondage; Missouri would not abolish slavery until January 1865.24 Rather than languishing in wait for freedom, Jules self-emancipated—running away from the Grant family during a stay in Louisville, Kentucky in 1863 and eventually marrying. Julia Grant wrote that she “regretted this, as she was a favorite with me.”25 At White Haven, it is likely that many enslaved individuals owned by the Dent family similarly took advantage of the Civil War by running away.26

As Julia came to terms with the loss of Jules, Ulysses Grant vacillated over supporting abolition. Early in the war, Grant was not inclined to criticize slavery as a practice; in 1862, Grant wrote his father: “I am sure that I have but one desire in this war and that is to put down the rebellion. I have no hobby of my own with regard to the negro, either to effect his freedom or to continue his bondage.”27 Yet, as the war continued, Grant’s indifference to the abolitionist cause began to change. In 1863, Grant wrote to Elihu B. Washburn: “I never was an Abolitionist, [n]ot even what could be called anti slavery, but I try to judge farely and honestly and it become patent to my mind early in the rebellion that the North and South could never live at peace with each other except as one nation, and that without slavery.”28

Another factor which may have altered Grant’s perception of slavery was the enlistment of African Americans in the Union Army. African-American soldiers first began to serve in regiments in late 1862 in Louisiana, Kansas, and Tennessee. President Abraham Lincoln and the federal government were slow to enact legislation allowing for enlistment of black soldiers, but emancipation, as well as conversations with prominent abolitionist Frederick Douglass, convinced the president that recruitment of African-American soldiers would bolster the Union cause.29 Grant supported African-American enlistment, writing President Lincoln: "I have given the subject of arming the negro my hearty support. This, with the emancipation of the negro, is the heavyest blow yet given the Confederacy.”30 On May 22, 1863, the War Department formed the Bureau of Colored Troops, and by the end of the war in 1865, approximately 180,000 African Americans had served in the Union Army.31 Yet, these men (and sometimes women) faced unequal treatment, including drastically lower pay than their fellow white soldiers. In the end, the important role that African Americans played in the Union Army’s victory may have persuaded Ulysses S. Grant to support their cause later in his life. Click here to learn more about the household of President Abraham Lincoln.

The Formerly Enslaved Household of the Grant Family (5) Show Me More

(Video) Author Talk: Liberty's Chain: Slavery, Abolitionists and the Jay Family of New York

The post-war period was one of major transition for the Grant family. Though Julia had lost both her personal servant and her childhood home, her husband’s election to the presidency in 1868 was a joyful occasion. Julia was delighted to entertain, decorate, and enjoy life in the spotlight. Even better, the Grants—who were used to a large staff during the war—were again cared for by others once they moved into the White House, this time by paid men and women. While a number of first ladies in history have disliked this very public life, Julia Grant reveled in it; she even cried upon leaving the Executive Mansion in 1877, and scolded her husband for refusing to seek a third term.

Meanwhile, Grant’s presidency built upon his experience fighting alongside African Americans in the Civil War and led him to advocate for racial equality throughout his two terms. Grant attempted to rectify administrative shortcomings in the wake of President Andrew Johnson’s Reconstruction policies. Although many Americans—even those who opposed slavery—did not believe in enfranchisement for black citizens, Grant vocally supported the ratification of the Fifteenth Amendment. He opposed the rise of white supremacist groups in the South, like the Ku Klux Klan, and sent federal troops into the region to combat racism and curb violence. The Enforcement Acts, passed by Congress in 1870, provided new protections to African Americans and gave the federal government authority to intervene in any states that obstructed the rights of black citizens. Grant’s alliance with African Americans led to his reelection endorsement by Frederick Douglass, one of the most famous abolitionists of the nineteenth century. Click here to learn more about the enslaved households of President Andrew Johnson.

Douglass wrote in his memoir:

Though I worked hard and long, to secure the nomination and the election of Gen. Grant in 1872, I neither received nor sought office under him. He was my choice upon grounds altogether free from selfish or personal considerations. I supported him because he had done, and would do, all he could to save, not only the country from ruin, but the emancipated class from oppression and ultimate destruction.32

As president, Ulysses Grant also supported the migration of African Americans to areas outside of the continental United States—an idea previously held by other presidents including Abraham Lincoln, James Madison, James Monroe, and others. Click here to learn more about the enslaved household of President James Madison. Click here to learn more about the enslaved household of President James Monroe.

However, unlike previous presidential plans which aimed to remove a so-called “inferior race” from the United States altogether, Grant’s 1869 proposed annexation of Santo Domingo (present-day Dominican Republic) aspired to create an escape for African Americans from racial prejudice. Technically, the island would become an American state and remain a part of the country.33 He wrote:

[San Domingo] is capable of supporting the entire colored population of the United States, should it choose to emigrate. The present difficulty in bringing all parts of the United States to a happy unity and love of country grows out of prejudice to color. The prejudice is a senseless one, but it exists. The colored many cannot be spared until his place is supplied, but with a refuge like San Domingo his worth here would soon be discovered34

The Formerly Enslaved Household of the Grant Family (6) Show Me More

Grant also hoped that racial equality in Santo Domingo might “extinguish that hated system of enforced labor” in other Caribbean nations, including the neighboring island of Cuba.35 Interestingly, Frederick Douglass was supportive of Grant’s plan and even traveled to Santo Domingo as Assistant Secretary to the Commission of Inquiry on the topic.36 Douglass and other abolitionists considered the island “an opportunity both to advance and to vindicate a radical vision of racial belonging.”37 Despite these efforts, the annexation was eventually impeded by President Grant’s political opponents in the Senate, who argued that imperial behavior in the Caribbean was as immoral as the slave-economy that the North had just abolished. Grant’s administration was also marred by scandal, leading to a legacy which often overlooks many of his political triumphs and his actions to protect African American citizens. Grant’s actions as president underscored a belief in racial equality that contradicted actions in his early adulthood. Similarly, Julia Grant supported her husband’s fight for racial equality in America, and made personal efforts to allow African Americans to attend her White House receptions, ordering ushers to “admit all who call.”38

After the presidency, Julia and Ulysses S. Grant kept in contact with a few of their former enslaved servants, including Mary Henry. Mary, who grew up with Julia, was interviewed by a Boston Globe reporter in 1900. She described her close relationship with Mrs. Grant: “I stood as close to her while she was being married as you are to my bed…when her children were born they were handed to me as they came into the world.”39 Before Henry died, Julia Grant sent her money and assured that she would be buried in the Dent family plot in Bellefontaine Cemetery, Missouri, but according to historians at the Ulysses Grant Historic Site at White Haven, “a search of Bellefontaine Cemetery's burial records indicates that while several women named Mary Henry are buried at the cemetery, no one by that name was buried there between 1867 and 1911.”40

Grant’s life is perhaps best documented within his personal memoirs, written as he was dying of throat cancer and published in 1885. Across two volumes, he documented his childhood, military service, Civil War leadership, and presidency in detail, and these volumes are often considered by historians to be one of the best sources on Grant’s life. It is important to note that within these memoirs, Grant made no mention of his personal role in the institution of slavery, though he accounted for national sentiment regarding abolition and accounted for the impact of slavery on the Civil War. In the preface of these memoirs, Grant warned that “there must be many errors of omission in this work,” but referred primarily in this statement to “officers and men engaged” in the Civil War.41

(Video) 2018 Genealogy Fair Session 2- Federal Records that Help Identify Former Slaves and Slave Owners

The Formerly Enslaved Household of the Grant Family (7) Show Me More

Within the pages of these memoirs, Grant mentioned in passing his time at in Missouri but did not write about owning William Jones, farming alongside enslaved individuals at White Haven, or running the plantation in Frederick Dent’s stead. In describing the construction of “Hardscrabble,” a project that was completed primarily by enslaved labor, he simply wrote: “A house had to be built also. I worked very hard, never losing a day because of bad weather, and accomplished the object in a moderate way.”42

Though it is impossible to know if Grant purposely or unintentionally omitted his own slave-ownership from these memoirs, his choice was crucial in shaping the way that scholars and historians have discussed Grant’s relationship to slavery and abolition in the years following their publication. For almost a century after the completion of these memoirs, academics relied on Grant’s personal recollections for their own historical biographies; as a result, his legacy was often based off of what key moments he chose to include—and exclude. Though nineteenth century biographers like Hamlin Garland and William Conant Church discussed Grant’s interactions with the enslaved population at White Haven, his personal slave-ownership remained undiscovered for more than half a century; Lloyd Lewis’s Captain Sam Grant, published in 1950, appears to be the first mention of Grant’s ownership of William Jones.43

To this day, Grant and his family’s involvement in the practice of slavery is often overlooked, though it was a crucial part of their identity before moving into the White House. Their actions and choices serve as an example of the fact that women were key participants in the institution of human bondage, rather than innocent bystanders, and show that evolution in Grant’s stance towards slavery and African American equality benefitted the country in a number of ways. While President U. S. Grant’s personal opinion on slavery is still debated by historians, it is undeniable that his military and presidential leadership aimed to ease racial tensions in the American South and bolster African American rights in the Reconstruction Era, particularly in terms of enfranchisement.

You Might Also Like

  • Collection The Decatur House Slave Quarters In 1821-1822, Susan Decatur requested the construction of a service wing. The first floor featured a large kitchen, dining room,...
  • “The Back Building” Built in 1818-1819, Decatur House was designed by the English architect Benjamin Henry Latrobe for Commodore Stephen Decatur and Susan...
  • Slavery and Strategy in Decatur House On February 11, 1829, members of Congress convened to certify votes for President and Vice President of the United States as Andrew...
  • Decatur House Silhouettes Through research and analysis of written accounts, letters, newspapers, memoirs, census records, architecture, and oral histories, historians, museum professionals, and...
  • Material Culture at Decatur House Without photographs, paintings, or other visual representations of the Decatur House Slave Quarters from the antebellum period, it is difficult...
  • George DeBaptiste President William Henry Harrison’s famously brief month-long tenure at the White House makes it difficult to research the inner wo...
  • From Slavery to the White House: The Extraordinary Life of Elizabeth Keckly In 1868, Elizabeth (Lizzy) Hobbs Keckly (also spelled Keckley) published her memoir Behind the Scenes or Thirty Years a Slave, and...
  • Prominent African-American Women and the White House Although Michelle Obama was the first African-American first lady of the United States, African Americans have been integrally involved in...
  • The Williams Family In 1818, John Gadsby was assessed and taxed for owning thirty-six enslaved individuals in Baltimore—including two young women named “Maria” and “K...
  • An Early Black Family's Life in Lafayette Park As we consider life in the President’s Neighborhood, the unusual story of the Wormley Hotel and its Black founder, Ja...
  • The American Colonization Society In the late eighteenth century, the original thirteen colonies dissolved and formed the United States. In 1787, delegates to the Constitutional...
  • Washington, D.C.'s "Contraband" Camps On April 16, 1862, Congress passed the Compensated Emancipation Act, ending slavery in the District of Columbia and delivering long-awaited freedom to...
(Video) Biography of an Uncharted People: Cape Slavery, Digital Humanities, and Forensic Facial Imaging


The Formerly Enslaved Household of the Grant Family? ›

Women are often overlooked in history for their role in the institution of slavery. First Lady Julia Dent Grant, wife of President Ulysses S. Grant, was a steadfast slave mistress for more than half of her life—an often forgotten part of her identity.

Who was Ulysses S. Grant's family? ›

Ulysses S. Grant

Are there any descendants of US Grant? ›

New Jersey is home now, but he would come back to upstate New York at least once a year to visit his mother Julia Dietz, who was the last surviving grandchild of Ulysses S. Grant until she died in 2019.

What happened to Grant's family? ›

The pair went through a highly scandalous divorce in 1913 and his wife, Elizabeth said he left the family and refused to support them. They officially separated in 1918 and soon after, Grant got hitched to a widow, Lillian Burns Wilkins.

How many family members did Ulysses S. Grant have? ›

Ulysses S. Grant
Political partyRepublican
Spouse(s)Julia Dent ​ ( m. 1848)​
ChildrenFrederick Ulysses Jr. Nellie Jesse II
Parent(s)Jesse Root Grant Hannah Simpson Grant
34 more rows

Does Grant have any living relatives? ›

Grant's descendants: great-great grandson John Griffiths. Griffiths recalled a photo of the family seated on the front porch of Grant Cottage in upstate New York, taken during Grant's last days. “There are two children seated in the front of that photo,” Griffiths told me.

What ancestry was Ulysses S. Grant? ›

Ulysses S. Grant

Are there any living descendants of George Washington? ›

George Washington had no children of his own. Thus, there are no direct descendants of George Washington. However, he had numerous siblings and half-siblings and there are many descendants of the Washington family. George Washington's nephew, Bushrod Washington, inherited Mount Vernon.

Did Ulysses S. Grant have any siblings? ›

Brothers: Samuel Simpson Grant, 1825-1861. Orvil Lynch Grant, 1835-1881 (obituary). Sisters: Rachel Clara Grant, 1828-1865. Virginia Paine Grant Corbin, 1832-1913.

What happened to Ulysses Grant children? ›

Ulysses, Julia and Their Children

He and his wife Julia had four children and were fortunate not to lose any of them to an early death, as was so often in the case in those days of untreatable diseases and lack of medical care we take for granted today. They were proud of their children and the children respected them.

Did Ulysses S. Grant have a wife? ›

Julia Boggs Dent Grant, hailing from a plantation near St. Louis, was the wife of United States war hero and the 18th President, Ulysses S. Grant. She served as First Lady of from 1869 to 1877.

The Christopher Goodhand family of Kent and Queen Anne’s County, Maryland were wealthy landowners, farmers, and enslavers originating in England. Christopher Goodhand born 1650, in Lincolnshire, En…, Lawful to Set to Sea, Chapter 11 The Emory Chase family of Queen Anne County begins as a family of free blacks and enslaved in Kent County in the 1830s.. According to the US Federal Slave Schedule he owned 10 slaves of various ages by 1850.. Perhaps, since Emory Chase Sr. had a personal estate, he was purchasing the freedom of family members gradually, when and as he could.. Levi was given to Samuel Goodhand (son of Christopher Goodhand) to “serve 15 years.” Emory Jr. was to serve Susan for 11 years before being emancipated.. Deed between Goodhands and Emory Chase Sr., Levi Chase, Emory Chase Jr.In freedom, the Chase family along with the other formerly free black families they married in to (Doman, Jeffers, Johnson, and Milbourne families) were active members of their community, farming and educating their children, building schools and churches.. Author Joel R. Johnson Posted on January 2, 2019February 26, 2020 Categories Documents and Maps , The Chase Family , The Johnson Family , The Milbourn Family Tags Asbury Johnson , Battle of the Crater , Christopher Goodhand , Emory Chase , Free African Americans , Genealogy , James Milbourne , Lemuel Roberts , Levi Chase , Manumission , Queen Anne's County , Slavery , Sudlersville , United States Colored Troops

The interpretation of slavery at White Haven is an important part of the mission of this historic site. Enslaved labor was central to the financial success of the plantation, and each White family that lived at the home prior to the Civil War enslaved Black people. That includes Ulysses S. Grant, who lived at White Haven during the years 1854 to 1859 with his wife Julia, their children, and his in-laws. While Grant struggled to support his family as a farmer at White Haven, the enslaved laborers of White Haven endured their own struggles, including the pain of family separations, harsh work conditions, and legal restrictions that prevented them from enjoying basic human rights to education, movement, and self-ownership. While Julia Dent Grant wrote of how much White Haven felt like home to her, the enslaved did not feel the same way and did not have the chance to voluntarily leave the property.

That includes Ulysses S. Grant, who lived at White Haven during the years 1854 to 1859 with his wife Julia, their children, and his in-laws.. The value of White Haven increased thanks to these labors and the Hunts sold the Gravois property to “Colonel” Frederick Dent in 1820 for the sum of $6,000.. Naming the property “White Haven” after his family home in Maryland, Dent aspired to become a Southern planter and gentleman.. Slavery in Missouri Most enslavers in Missouri enslaved fewer than ten laborers.. Contrary to popular images of large plantations where hundreds of enslaved laborers were supervised by an overseer, most slaveholding farmers in Missouri worked alongside their laborers growing basic cash crops such as corn, wheat, oats, and hay.. That did not make slavery in St. Louis less harsh, however.. Julia Dent Grant enjoyed the benefit of an education while the enslaved children fed farm animals, cleaned the home, and learned the responsibilities of plantation labor.. In Julia’s recollections of slavery at White Haven, the enslaved people were grateful, contented laborers who were treated like family by the Dents.. Grant and Slavery When Ulysses S. Grant first moved to White Haven in 1854, he benefitted from the labors of a number of Colonel Dent’s enslaved men who helped him fell trees, plant crops, and construct his “Hardscrabble” log cabin.. In an 1858 letter to his sister Grant stated that “I have now three negro men, two hired by the year and one of Mr. Dents, which, with my own help, I think, will enable me to do my farming pretty well.” At some point during Grant’s time at White Haven he also acquired ownership of an enslaved man named William Jones from his father-in-law.. Grant and his family benefitted from the labors of more than William Jones, however, including numerous enslaved people owned by Colonel Dent and others hired from local slaveholders.. Little is known about the whereabouts of White Haven’s enslaved laborers after the Civil War, although two formerly enslaved women owned by Colonel Dent, Mary Robinson and Mary Henry, remained in St. Louis and were interviewed by local newspapers after Grant’s death in 1885.. Federal Writers Project, Missouri Slave Narratives: Slave Narratives from the Frederal Writers' Project, 1936-1938 .. University of Missouri Press, 1993.

 Reconstruction and the Formerly Enslaved

Were the former slaves American citizens?. However important a command of the chronology of Reconstruction may be, it is equally important that students understand that Reconstruction was a period when American waged a sustained debate over who was an American, what rights should all Americans enjoy, and what rights would only some Americans possess.. Even so, white northerners, and more so white southerners, presumed that they would debate and resolve these questions with little or no consideration of black opinion.. If so, then the federal government (or, in other words, northern whites and Republicans) could dictate the reconstruction of the South.. White landowners had land but no cash to pay laborers; former slaves had labor but no cash or credit to buy land.. The role of African Americans in Reconstruction. The search by African Americans for allies during Reconstruction is the focus of another worthwhile exercise.. This said, African Americans never had decisive control over Reconstruction.. Typically, students will identify the major actors as white northerners, white southerners and blacks.. Were all white southerners?. These taxes, in the end, drove a wedge between poor whites and African Americans and ensured that black southerners could not take for granted the support of poor white southerners who bridled at paying taxes on their land to fund new schools.. Or take the example of white northerners.. For example, the roles of black women , the struggle to develop a system of labor to replace slavery, and the emergence of black institutions have all been the focus of recent scholarly monographs.

Library of Congress

Mrs. Dent used to say to me: I like that young man.. All I would have to do would be to point out the chicken I wanted to Leo and he would grab it for me.. Grant was a very kind man to those who worked for him, and he always said that he wanted to give his wife's slaves their freedom as soon as he was able.. He was very fond of high living, however, and was an inconstant smoker all his life.. I have often heard his relatives of this in connection with a daring feat he performed during the Mexican war.. After watching us in silence quite a while he turned to Mrs. Grant and said in a careless way, Julia, I believe I will go to Mme.------,(naming a famous fortune teller who was in the city at the time) and get her to tell me whether I will be elected.. In a short time we will leave the city and I will engage for a time in a mercantile business.

During slavery and for years after, white Missourians often boasted that their state’s border location rendered slavery milder than down river in the Cotton Kingdom of the Deep South. They often pointed to Missouri’s more temperate climate, a less arduous work regime, and the “domestic” relations of

During slavery and for years after, white Missourians often boasted that their state’s border location rendered slavery milder than down river in the Cotton Kingdom of the Deep South.. The region emerged as a destination for migrants from the Upper South in the years following the political compromise that resulted in Missouri’s admission as a slave state in 1821.. Plantation slavery never developed in Missouri on a large scale.. With the exception of Delaware, Missouri had a larger percentage of enslaved people living on small-scale slavery operations than any other slave state.. Overseers were rare in Missouri and most slaveholders directly supervised and worked with enslaved people in their homes and fields.. The close proximity in which black and white Missourians lived and worked increased the opportunities for them to profoundly influence one another’s lives.. It was common for non-slaveholding whites to hire enslaved women and children to work as domestics in their homes as well.. The preponderance of small-scale slavery in Missouri worked in other ways to undermine enslaved people’s social interactions with others.. Well over half of marriages between enslaved men and women were cross-farm or “abroad” unions.. These unions were not sanctioned or protected by law but they were recognized by the black and white community as marriages.. Enslaved men traveled throughout the countryside, running farm and household errands, working for others, and visiting their wives and children; enslaved women frequently attended religious services at local churches and social gatherings along with men.. These gatherings augmented the size of the limited work force found on most Missouri farms and white Missourians were happy to provide food and a dance in exchange for free labor.. Large numbers of free and enslaved blacks also worked on the docks and riverboats that plied the waters of the Missouri, Mississippi, and Ohio Rivers, lending an air of transience to the city’s black population, and also enhancing chances for some to successfully reach free soil.. The end result was deep political divisions in the state during the Civil War.

Prior to 1870, records rarely noted names of enslaved and formerly-enslaved people—this database is pooling resources to render a more complete picture.

“When I think about being a person of color, in a moment of racial justice and reconciliation in places like America and Brazil, I think this vehicle, this platform for multiple audiences, is so important,” says Daryle Williams, a 27-year veteran of the University of Maryland’s History department and one of three co-principal investigators of the project.. About 10 years ago, Williams started a small digital project looking at movement of legally-enslaved Africans in Rio de Janeiro throughout Brazil, using Geographic Information System mapping (GIS) to trace the locations associated with their work.. “What could you do with this work that’s been done in slave studies, slave trade, slave societies, slave biographies, to get these data sets to talk to each other, to have them work in coordination instead of in their own silos?” Williams pondered.. The funding includes extended partnerships with Harvard University’s Hutchins Center for African and African American Research and the Omohundro Institute of the College of William and Mary.. "With Michigan State University’s open-source platform, historians, archivists, genealogists, and the general public alike have the opportunity to both reference and contribute to an ever-growing database that aims to document and preserve the missing fragments needed to honor the experiences of enslaved people, and to help inform our collective understanding of our country’s complex history.”. Mary Elliott, the museum’s curator of American slavery, says that though reams of information about slavery exists, it can be difficult to connect the diverse threads and themes.. “They’re also understanding how to pull it together to help understand our human story, our personal story, our African American story, our American story—and our diasporic story.”

The stories of enslaved people are "closer than we think," according to some descendants who are working to tell their ancestors' histories long framed by white enslavers.

"This isn't a box to check," says Justin Reid, who is leading the effort.. "This is something that's integral to the story of the Executive Mansion.". Crixell Matthews/VPM. The work is personal for Reid, the director of community initiatives for Virginia Humanities, the state office of the National Endowment for the Humanities.. The group of roughly 20 descendants Reid has assembled for the Executive Mansion project includes Kerri Moseley-Hobbs, whose ancestors were enslaved by former Virginia Gov.. Moseley-Hobbs now works alongside other descendants and white ancestors of the Prestons as she updates the plantation's history, and is separately working with the university on a similar project.. The enslaved people who built Richmond, who powered Virginia's economy, didn't get statues.. It's a history, Reid says, that is best told by the ancestors of the people who lived it.. Descendants Of People Enslaved By Virginia's Governors Are Reframing History

It wasn’t just slavery but segregation, redlining, evictions, exclusion — and outright theft.

The median family wealth for white people is $171,000, compared with just $17,600 for black people.. Congress established the Freedmen’s Bureau to oversee the transition from slavery to freedom, and the Freedman’s Savings Bank was formed to help four million formerly enslaved people gain financial freedom.. “This is a country for white men, and by God, as long as I am President, it shall be a government for white men,” Johnson declared in 1866.. “The origins of the racial wealth gap start with the failure to provide the formerly enslaved with the land grants of 40 acres,” says William A. Darity Jr., a professor of public policy and African-American studies at Duke University.. Seventy years later, the effects of Bolling’s murder are still felt by his children and their children.

New research is helping to uncover stories of African-American families torn apart by slavery.

She placed an ad in a newspaper saying that any information would be “gratefully received by one whose love for her children survives the bitterness and hardships of many long years spent in slavery.” Her ad listed the details that she recalled, as well as her own contact information.. The Last Seen ads may also help descendants of enslaved people fill in long-blank family trees.. The Last Seen ads may also help descendants of enslaved people fill in long-blank family trees.. For many years before slavery was abolished, enslavers ran ads (like the one at right) in newspapers around the country to track down enslaved people who had escaped.. For many years before slavery was abolished, enslavers ran ads (like the one at right) in newspapers around the country to track down enslaved people who had escaped.

In the 1830s through 1850s – as the nation was forcibly moving Native Americans off of the land in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and Mississippi to make room for whites – two forced migrations took place. The horrible “Trail of Tears,” or “Trail of Death” as some Native Americans call it, was the forced walk from the Southeast into the Oklahoma Territory. Their displacement is just part one of the story.

In the 1830s through 1850s – as the nation was forcibly moving Native Americans off of the land in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and Mississippi to make room for whites – two forced migrations took place.. What most people do not know is that enslaved Africans were sold and, in many cases, forced to walk across the country to the places vacated by these Native Americans.. The law allowed the president to “negotiate” removal treaties forcing Native Americans to give up all of their land east of the Mississippi River and move west to Indian Territory.. The Treaty of Payne’s Landing signed in May 1832 forced the Seminoles to give up their land and move west within three years.. By 1837 over 15,000 Creeks were forced to move west of the Mississippi River.. As was the case with many, he forced the Africans he enslaved to walk to Mississippi from South Carolina.. During the 1830s, 60,810 enslaved Africans left South Carolina and were moved to Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, and Louisiana.. My family members were included in the property she passed down to her family.. These are also the stories of my family in America.

On March 29, 1859, Ulysses S. Grant went to the St. Louis Courthouse to attend to a pressing legal matter. That day Grant signed a manumission paper freeing William Jones, an enslaved African American man that he had previously acquired from his father-in-law, “Colonel” Frederick F. Dent. Described as being “of Mullatto [sic] complexion,” five … Read More Read More

The Mystery of William Jones, An Enslaved Man Owned by Ulysses S. Grant On March 29, 1859, Ulysses S. Grant went to the St. Louis Courthouse to attend to a pressing legal matter.. That day Grant signed a manumission paper freeing William Jones, an enslaved African American man that he had previously acquired from his father-in-law, “Colonel” Frederick F. Dent.. What sort of work did Jones do for Grant and his family?. To that end I have endeavored over the past year to research what may have happened to Jones after his manumission.. His listing states that he worked as a horse driver and was living at rear 100 Myrtle Street, which was very close to the St. Louis riverfront and is now part of the grounds at Gateway Arch National Park.. Photo Courtesy of Rollanet.Does this listing represent the same William Jones that was freed by Ulysses S. Grant?. Unfortunately, there is no listing in the 1860 federal census for a William Jones of African American descent living in downtown St. Louis.. On the other hand, a census listing would have confirmed the age of the William Jones listed in the directory and helped confirm if he was the same person previously owned by Grant.. On May 6, 1861, the court records indicate that a “William Jones (Col’d)” was arrested with several other free blacks for not having their freedom papers.

While some commentators are concerned that money is “not enough,” money is exactly what's required to eliminate the most glaring indicator of racial injustice.

40 is its recognition of the full scope of the case for black reparations.. The latter is manifest in mass incarceration, police executions of unarmed blacks (de facto lynchings), discrimination in employment, and, significantly, the enormous racial wealth divide between black and white Americans.. Setting the size of the reparations fund can begin with a calculation of today’s value of those long-ago promised 40 acres.. Indeed, black reparations should target specifically black American descendants of persons enslaved in the United States.. These criteria do omit blacks whose families migrated to the United States after slavery ended.. The post-slavery immigrants are distinguished from black American descendants of slavery in at least two ways: their families migrated here voluntarily rather than via forced migration and, unlike those persons formerly enslaved in the United States who were promised the 40 acres (or at least 40 million acres of land to all 4 million of the freedmen), more recent black immigrants do not have a claim on the federal government for the unmet promise.. So, for example, Jamaican blacks have a claim that should be directed against the United Kingdom, Haitian blacks have a claim that should be directed against France, and Surinamese blacks have a claim that should be directed against the Netherlands.. Black American descendants of slavery have a claim that must be directed against the United States.. Indeed, there seems to be an inconsistency between the attitude taken toward other claims for reparations and the black American claim.. But, oddly, the claims or possible claims of others somehow are attached to or are invoked as an objection to native black American reparations.. While some commentators are concerned that money is “not enough,” money is precisely what is required to eliminate the most glaring indicator of racial injustice, the racial wealth divide.. William Darity Jr. and A. Kirsten Mullen. William Darity Jr. is the Samuel DuBois Cook professor of public policy, African and African American Studies and economics and the director of the Samuel DuBois Cook Center on Social Equity at Duke University.

As was true in all southern states, enslaved women played an integral part in Georgia’s colonial and antebellum history. Scholars are beginning to pay more attention to issues of gender in their study of slavery in the Old South and are finding that enslaved women faced additional burdens and even more challenges than did many […]

It is not known just when the first enslaved women came to Georgia.. The proportion of men to women in Georgia’s early enslaved population is difficult to determine.. Enslavers kept meticulous records identifying several traditionally female occupations, including washerwomen, wet nurses, cooks, hairdressers, midwives, servants to the children, and “house wenches.” Those in agricultural positions cultivated silk, rice , and indigo , but after the cotton gin was patented in 1793 most worked in cotton fields.. In early childhood enslaved girls spent their time playing with other children and performing some light tasks.. Ellen Craft was among the most famous of self-liberated individuals.. Dickson’s father brought her up in his household, though she remained legally enslaved until 1864, despite her privileged upbringing.. Kemble was appalled at the poor conditions, both physical and emotional, under which her husband’s enslaved women laborers suffered: in the fields, in pregnancy and childbirth, and in the uncertainties they faced in being separated by sale from their spouses or children.

  How Slavery Affected African American Families

A father might have one owner, his "wife" and children another.Some enslaved people lived in nuclear families with a mother, father, and children.. By the time most enslaved children reached the age of seven or eight they were also assigned tasks including taking care of owner’s young children, fanning flies from the owner’s table, running errands, taking lunch to owners’ children at school, and eventually, working in the tobacco, cotton, corn, or rice fields along with adults.. Enslaved families were also divided for inheritance when an owner died, or because the owners’ adult children moved away to create new lives, taking some of the enslaved people with them.. Historian Michael Tadman has estimated that approximately one third of enslaved children in the upper South states of Maryland and Virginia experienced family separation in one of three possible scenarios: sale away from parents; sale with mother away from father; or sale of mother or father away from child.. Note for students that because whites were not enslaved in America, the children of a white mother and enslaved father was automatically free, but in some colonies and later states, legislation punished white women and their mixed-race children by apprenticing the children until adulthood and extending the period of service for the white woman if she was an indentured servant.

The April 27th Hutchins Center virtual event devoted to our new book, From Here to Equality: Reparations for Black Americans in the Twenty-First Century, resulted in too many participant questions …

That dimension will be achieved by closing the immense gap in Black and White wealth.. Would another form of “payment” other than direct cash qualify as reparations?. How will reparations change the effects of the political, social, and economic inequities that Black Americans confront daily?. If African Americans are due reparations, what about other ethnicities like Native Americans, Mexican Americans, Japanese Americans, and Chinese Americans?. In addition, the Black American claim is for full citizenship, while we assume that for some other groups—indigenous Americans in particular—a reparations claim they might bring is for sovereignty.. Should the payments go to individuals or programs and institutions working towards long term Black wealth?. Should reparations be addressed as an issue of economic disparity, racial disparity, or both?. Black reparations are a matter of racial justice; therefore, they are an issue of racial disparity.. But we focus on the racial wealth gap, since we view that differential as capturing the cumulative, intergenerational economic impact of the long trajectory of American Whitesupremacy.. How should we balance the need for reparations with other important issues, such as climate action, that will require large investments?. The moral claim for justice for Black Americans finally must be assigned priority.

We asked readers of The 1619 Project to share photographs and stories of their enslaved ancestors.

But when we asked readers of The 1619 Project to share stories about their enslaved ancestors, dozens of readers replied — and many shared documents and photographs.. The Story Enslaved on plantations in Nelson County, Va., until the end of the Civil War, Lucy Ann Jackson managed to do something very few people do: She lived to the ripe old age of 114.. The Story James Clay was from Roxboro, Person County, N.C. His father, Monroe Clay, was the witness to James and Lizzy’s wedding, which took place on Feb. 10, 1873, when James was 22 and Lizzy was 18.. The Legacy I am my family historian, and DNA testing and the internet have opened up the floodgates for family research, especially for the descendants of formerly enslaved people.. The Document I discovered the voter registration documents of my enslaved great-great-grandfather Lewis Britton about a year ago on and was able to confirm them recently with another trip to the genealogy section in my hometown library in Albany, Ga.

Gordon S Wood reviews following books: Inventing a Nation: Washington, Adams, Jefferson by Gore Vidal; An Imperfect God: George Washington, His Slaves, and the Creation of America by Henry Wiencek; 'Negro President': Jefferson and the Slave Power by Garry Wills; Jefferson's Demons: Portrait of a Restless Mind by Michael Knox Beran; and Thomas Jefferson by R B Bernstein; drawing (M)

Washington, Adams, Jefferson.. Jefferson and the Slave Power.. ''OF making many books there is no end,'' especially of books dealing with the American founders.. Not only does the overwhelming presence of slavery in early America cast a dark shadow over the sunny aspects of the founding, but it is also driving a huge rethinking of our history.. Four of the five first presidents were slaveholders, including Washington and Jefferson, the principal subjects of these five books.. If anything can take founders like Washington and Jefferson out of our present and place them back into the particular context of their time, it is this fact that they were slaveholders.. We can scarcely imagine one person owning another for life.. Slavery, in Wiencek's superb telling, certainly makes Washington more of a traditional Southern planter than we have usually been willing to admit.. This power, Wills argues, was based on the clause of the Constitution that allowed the slaveholding states to count each slave as three-fifths of a person for purposes of representation in the Congress and the Electoral College.. The idea of counting the slaves as three-fifths of a person originated in the Confederation period, when the delegates were trying to find a formula for deciding how much money each state should contribute to the Union.. At this point the Southern states did not want to count their slaves at all.. In glaring contrast to Jefferson, Pickering as secretary of state under President John Adams behaved admirably toward the slave rebellion that resulted in the Haitian republic; he even arranged for the first-ever dinner between an American president and a person of color.


1. Hamilton County Commissioners 6/18/19
(Hamilton County, Ohio)
2. The Untold Story of the Maney Family Slaves: A Case Study of Slavery in Murfreesboro
(City of Murfreesboro, TN - Murfreesboro CityTV)
3. The U.S. Owes $350,000 To Every Black American
4. History Has Been Made: Reparations Are Here
(Bloomberg Quicktake: Originals)
5. Katherine Franke on Reparations
(Chicago Humanities Festival)
6. Slavery in the President's Neighborhood
(James Monroe Museum)

You might also like

Latest Posts

Article information

Author: Amb. Frankie Simonis

Last Updated: 09/22/2022

Views: 5703

Rating: 4.6 / 5 (76 voted)

Reviews: 91% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Amb. Frankie Simonis

Birthday: 1998-02-19

Address: 64841 Delmar Isle, North Wiley, OR 74073

Phone: +17844167847676

Job: Forward IT Agent

Hobby: LARPing, Kitesurfing, Sewing, Digital arts, Sand art, Gardening, Dance

Introduction: My name is Amb. Frankie Simonis, I am a hilarious, enchanting, energetic, cooperative, innocent, cute, joyous person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.