Remembering Memorial Day

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Memorial Day is a Federal holiday in the United States which occurs every year on the final Monday of May.   Memorial Day is a day of remembering the men and women who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces.

Formerly known as Decoration Day.  It typically marks the start of the summer vacation season, while Labor Day marks its end.

Many people visit cemeteries and memorials, particularly to honor those who have died in military service. Many volunteers place an American flag on each grave in United States national cemetery.

A fact that you should probably know is that African Americans are the reason that Memorial Day even exists in the first place.

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According to Professor David Blight of Yale University, the event began on May 1, 1865.  A group of former slaves in Charleston, SC gave a proper burial to 257 Union soldiers who’d been put into a mass grave.

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The black community of Charleston then consecrated the new cemetery with “an unforgettable parade of 10,000 people.”

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The event was initially called “Decoration Day” and was led by 3,000 black school children who started off by singing the song “John Brown’s Body.”  They were then followed by hundreds of black women with baskets of flowers and crosses.  After that, black men marched behind them in cadence, followed by Union infantry.

The Union soldiers lived in horrible conditions, and 257 of them died from exposure and disease.

This was the reason for the creation of the mass grave site.  A total of 28 black men went to the site and re-buried the men properly, largely as a thank you for helping fight for their freedom.

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They also built a fence around the cemetery, and on the outside, put the words, “Martyrs of the Race Course.”

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Dr. Boyce Watkins, who created an online course based on a forum held with Minister Louis Farrakhan, says that this is simply the tip of the iceberg.

He says that misinformation is one of the most storied weapons used to perpetuate the oppression of black people.

“Black people must, as part of our healing, go back and rewrite history to ensure that we learn the truth,” said Dr. Watkins. “You’ve been lied to for your entire life, so it is up to all of us to use the Internet as a critical resource in helping us to learn who we truly are.  We are great people and America would not be the country that it is today without our sacrifice.”

Now you know the rest of the story.  Go tell this one to everyone you know……

……let Freedom, Knowledge and Truth Ring……

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17 responses »

  1. Fascinating information about the history of Memorial Day, which I never knew.
    I think you probably know something we in Western MA are proud of, about (white) Colonel Robert Gould Shaw and the (black) soldiers of the 54th MA Regiment, the first black soldiers fighting for the Union. There is an incredible replica of the sculpture of them done by Augustus St Gaudens at his home in New Hampshire; the original frieze is on the Common in Boston. Each face of each soldier is absolutely individual. It is a tremendously moving sculpture. One link is here on wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/54th_Regiment_Massachusetts_Volunteer_Infantry
    You are right, the story of black America remains to be told.

  2. If I’ve ever heard this story, I’ve forgotten it. I appreciate very much your sharing the origins of Memorial Day. Now that I know I’ll not forget.

  3. I remember reading a little about this somewhere but you have given more information. Thanks for reminding us of this important yet mainly forgotten history. Stay safe on this Memorial holiday wherever you are!

  4. I do wish those who make the rules would stop renaming and moving special days/events. That is the reason real history is lost. Facts get combined and then blurred, then no one remembers. Nice post. Tell the actual stories to keep them alive.

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