Organizers of a Memorial Day ceremony turned off a speaker’s microphone when the former U.S. Army officer began talking about how freed Black slaves had honored fallen soldiers soon after the Civil War. (June 3)
BARNARD KEMTER: Memorial Day was first commemorated by an organized group of Black freed slaves less than a month after the Confederacy surrendered. In recent years, the origins of how and where Decoration Day began has sparked lively debate amongst historians. However, Yale historian David Blight asserting the holiday is rooted in a moving ceremony that was conducted by freed slaves on May 1, 1865, at the tattered remains of a Confederate prisoner of war camp.
It was a Charleston Washington race course and jockey club today known as Hampton Park. The ceremony is believed to have included a parade of as many as 10,000 people, including 3,000 African-American schoolchildren, singing the Union marching song “John Brown’s Body.” They were carrying armfuls of flowers and went to decorated the graves. Interesting that there would be a tie back to Hudson with that song– John Brown.
Most importantly, whether Charleston’s Decoration Day was the first, as attended by Charleston’s Black community–