It’s not a secret that I love studying history; I believe it is a vital discipline for understanding and transforming the world. And as shocking and terrifying as human cruelty has been throughout recorded history, it’s also heartening to observe, time and time again, the movements opposing oppression that have always existed. This is also important to remember if you are tempted to excuse the complicity of people in the past by insisting that they were just products of their time. By studying history, we also become more aware of our own responsibilities and possibilities in the present.
A Legacy of Failure, Cruelty, and War
One of these important historical moments in US history, when there were multiple and large movements to either oppose or work for social justice, followed the American Civil War. Optimism that Reconstruction would bring about true and lasting healing and change in a nation ravaged and traumatized by the horrors of slavery and war, combined with optimism that there could be a change in the government’s policies regarding Native peoples. President Ulysses S. Grant and the events that took place in his administration are a good example of these trends.