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The Black Roots Of Memorial Day

(Above: Yale Professor David Blight recounts the 1st Memorial Day organized by Blacks in 1865)

An enlightening read, “The Black Roots of Memorial Day,” relates a historical account with elements common to several U.S. regions’ claiming to be the early birthplace of the National Holiday commemorating America’s fallen soldiers. In addition to several print versions online, surfing YouTube on the topic, you will come across several videos that tell the origin story of Memorial day. Below, after the jump, is the segment produced by the History Channel.

It seems that all origin stories agree that a grassroots movement to decorate the graves of those who died fighting in the Civil War, Union and Confederate, in honor of them giving their lives for what they believed to be their country’s cause, eventually became Decoration Day…which eventually became Memorial Day. Also common to most accounts, holding that the Memorial Day is still more of a ‘Union’ observation, we find several southern states continue to celebrate Confederate Memorial Day.

Offered after the jump is more on “The Black Roots”… But in the end, what matters is what matters to you. Celebrate the holiday as you feel best. Now, you can do so knowing a bit more about the history behind it.

Be safe and thankful for folks looking out for you, then and now.


104965434-black-soldiersOn May 1, 1865, freed slaves in Charleston, South Carolina met by the thousands to remember, honor, and commemorate the death of Union soldiers, to celebrate the end of the American Civil War and to confirm their hard-won freedom.

Up to 10,00 black people, including 3,000 school children newly enrolled in freedmen’s schools, mutual aid societies, Union troops, black preachers, and white northern missionaries – all marched down Charleston’s main street to remember the fallen, to thank the fallen, to let the world know that there was a new dispensation in this now really united United States of America.

In 1868, General John Logan issued a special order that May 30, 1868 would forever be observed as “Decoration Day,” the first [official] Memorial Day. It was recognized as a day “for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet church-yard in the land.”

History_Memorial_Day_34766_SF_HD_still_624x352“The Black Roots of Memorial Day” by Herbert Dyer, Jr.

(History Channel video fails to mention 10,000 Blacks first took day to honor fallen heroes)

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