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History As It Happens

Aug 2, 2022

For most of the 137 years after his death in 1885, Ulysses S. Grant was remembered by historians as a failed president who led a hopelessly corrupt administration. In recent years, however, Grant’s reputation has undergone a scholarly renaissance that has set straight his record of accomplishments, not least in the area of civil rights for the newly emancipated slaves. In this year marking the bicentennial of his birthday, Grant scholars say the eighteenth president deserves a place next to Abraham Lincoln and Lyndon Johnson in the decidedly small pantheon of civil rights presidents. In this episode, constitutional lawyer and historian Frank Scaturro says generations of historians were negatively influenced by the myth of the Lost Cause and the Dunning school interpretation of Reconstruction. Scaturro is also the president of the Grant Monument Association by virtue of his work in the 1990s, while he attended college in New York City, to successfully pressure the federal government to repair the dilapidated, vandalized mausoleum on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. Like the tomb, Grant’s reputation has undergone a major rehabilitation. But the effort to overturn a century of tendentious scholarship must continue.