On this dayDec 17, 1862

Gen. Grant Expels Jewish People from Tennessee District

On December 17, 1862, Union General Ulysses S. Grant issued Order No.11, expelling all Jewish people from the Tennessee District, which encompassed portions of Tennessee, Kentucky, and Mississippi. In the midst of the Civil War between Union forces and Confederate forces attempting to secede from the United States, the Tennessee District consisted of areas within these Southern states held under Union control.

General Grant, who would later be elected president, issued his order based on antisemitic stereotypes and rumors. Grant was in charge of black market cotton trading and blamed the Jewish community for corruption and speculation. These views were heavily influenced by the pervasive prejudice that Jewish people engaged in war profiteering. Under Order No. 11, Jewish residents of the Tennessee District were prohibited from obtaining trade licenses and risked imprisonment if they did not leave the district boundaries within one day. “The Jews, as a class violating every regulation of trade established by the Treasury Department and also department orders,” the order read, “are hereby expelled from the department twenty-four hours from the receipt of this order.” As a result, Jewish families were forced out of town with only the belongings they could carry.

When President Abraham Lincoln learned of the order in January 1863, he quickly expressed his disapproval and Grant rescinded the order soon after. Though General Grant’s legacy was not directly harmed by this incident – he won most of the Jewish vote in his 1868 presidential victory, and appointed Jewish Americans to high political positions – the scapegoating of Jewish communities during war and times of economic hardship remained a deeply-rooted problem that yielded deadly consequences during the Holocaust.

About EJI

The Equal Justice Initiative works to end mass incarceration, excessive punishment, and racial inequality.

Learn more

About this website

Until we confront our history of racial injustice and its legacy, we cannot overcome the racial bias that exists today.

Learn more