Sunlight and Shadows: Slavery at Ulysses S. Grant’s White Haven

The Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site in St. Louis recently created a video about slavery at White Haven, a historic home being protected by the National Park Service today. Grant lived at White Haven with his wife Julia and their growing family from 1854-1859 before moving to Galena, Illinois, right before the outbreak of the Civil War. Although the video is titled “Slavery at Ulysses S. Grant’s White Haven,” the house and adjoining property was owned by Grant’s father-in-law Frederick F. Dent while Grant lived there (Grant later bought the property after war). Between White Haven and another property in downtown St. Louis, Frederick Dent owned roughly thirty slaves at the peak of his prosperity. While living in St. Louis, Grant owned one slave named William Jones, who he freed in 1859 (also look here for further discussion on Grant’s views on slavery).

Here’s the video below. I think it was nicely done, especially the commentary from Chiffontae Ross. Chiffontae is an excellent interpreter and several visitors mentioned to me when I worked at the site that she was the best park ranger they had ever worked with. The National Park Service is privileged to have her in their ranks.

What do you think of the video? If you’ve ever been to ULSG, what did you think of your experience?


2 thoughts on “Sunlight and Shadows: Slavery at Ulysses S. Grant’s White Haven

  1. Having just finished Brooks Simpson’s “Let Us Have Peace” I really appreciated how the National Park Service interpreted this site. They really are cutting edge there. Where did you find the video to upload?
    I find Grant’s political and personal views on slavery in Missouri in the 1850s. As a border state in the tumultuous decade before the war Grant is an excellent example of a man figuring his world out. And I am very excited to see the story of African American lives in detail.

    1. Hi Nathan,

      “Let Us Have Peace” is an excellent book, and I highly recommend it. Brooks Simpson does a great job of interpreting Grant’s time in St. Louis and his analysis of Grant between Appomattox and his Presidency in 1868 is top notch.

      I used to work at the Grant site and I still stay in touch with a lot of staff. I also follow the site on Twitter (@USGrantNPS). I knew they were working on a video, but saw on Twitter that it was finally published yesterday.

      One of the great things about working there was the opportunity to work with such a diverse cast of characters. Between Grant, Julia and the rest of the Dent family, and the slaves that lived at White Haven, I as an interpreter had many different stories and perspectives in which to analyze antebellum life in a border state like Missouri. Additionally, over the past year I have attended two different conferences where ULSG was mentioned for the work they are doing in interpreting women’s history. I think your comment about Grant “figuring his world out” is spot on, and the current staff tries to bring out that aspect of Grant’s life in their tours.

      Grant’s time in St. Louis is an interesting story. No one had any idea at the time that Grant would later be the first Lieutenant General since George Washington or a two term President.

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