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Memorial Day: Blacks Were First to Celebrate, Scholar Says

Project UNIFY

“This was the first Memorial Day. African Americans invented Memorial Day in Charleston, South Carolina. What you have there is black Americans recently freed from slavery announcing to the world with their flowers, their feet, and their songs what the war had been about. What they basically were creating was the Independence Day of a Second American Revolution.”

Following the Confederate surrender, which ended the Civil War, blacks went to the place where hundreds of prisoners had been buried, many in mass graves. “Blacks, many of them recently freed slaves, buried the soldiers properly. They put up a fence around the area and painted it. More than 260 were buried there. We don’t know the names. We don’t know the race,” Blight told BlackAmericaWeb.com.

The first widely publicized observance of a Memorial Day-type observance after the Civil War was in Charleston, South Carolina, on May 1, 1865. During the war, Union…

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