On this dayDec 17, 1862

General 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 anti-Semitic 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 to move with only the belongings they could carry.

At the end of the 19th century, the targeting of groups by race and religion continued to be a feature of government policy, and the legacy of group-based bias can still be seen today, especially with immigration policies that target people who are Muslim and from particular countries. When President Abraham Lincoln learned of the order in January 1863, he quickly expressed his disapproval and Grant rescinded the order soon after.

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