Today in History – Memorial Day May 30, 1868

One of the Earliest Memorial Day Ceremonies Was Held by Freed African Americans by Dave Roos (UPDATED:
MAY 10, 2021/ORIGINAL: MAY 24, 2019)

“At the close of the Civil War, people recently freed from enslavement in Charleston honored fallen Union soldiers. Memorial Day was born out of necessity. After the American Civil War, a battered United States was faced with the task of burying and honoring the 600,000 to 800,000 Union and Confederate soldiers who had died in the single bloodiest military conflict in American history. The first national commemoration of Memorial Day was held in Arlington National Cemetery on May 30, 1868, where both Union and Confederate soldiers are buried.”

“Several towns and cities across America claim to have observed their own earlier versions of Memorial Day or “Decoration Day” as early as 1866. (The earlier name is derived from the fact that decorating graves was and remains a central activity of Memorial Day.) But it wasn’t until a remarkable discovery in a dusty Harvard University archive the late 1990s that historians learned about a Memorial Day commemoration organized by a group of Black people freed from enslavement less than a month after the Confederacy surrendered in 1865.” (1)

Decoration Day

“In May 1868, General John A. Logan, the commander-in-chief of the Union veterans’ group known as the Grand Army of the Republic, issued a decree that May 30 should become a nationwide day of commemoration for the more than 620,000 soldiers killed in the recently ended Civil War. On Decoration Day, as Logan dubbed it, Americans should lay flowers and decorate the graves of the war dead “whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land.” (2)

From Decoration Day to Memorial Day

Decoration Day became Memorial Day in 1967 when Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act. The holiday was moved to the last Monday in May.

Sources (1) One of the Earliest Memorial Day Ceremonies Was Held by Freed African Americans – HISTORY

(2) Memorial Day 2022: Facts, Meaning & Traditions – HISTORY



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