27 May 2013

Memorial Day History

Charleston, S.C. 1865
I couldn't resist passing on this wonderful photograph and bit of history that was being shared on Facebook. I have never seen this picture before. 
"According to Professor David Blight of the Yale University History Department, the first Memorial Day was observed by formerly enslaved black people at the Washington Race Course (today the location of Hampton Park) in Charleston, South Carolina. The race course had been used as a temporary Confederate prison camp in 1865 as well as a mass grave for Union soldiers who died there. Immediately after the cessation of hostilities, formerly enslaved people exhumed the bodies from the mass grave and reinterred them properly with individual graves. They built a fence around the graveyard with an entry arch and declared it a Union graveyard. The work was completed in only ten days. On May 1, 1865, the Charleston newspaper reported that a crowd of up to ten thousand, mainly black residents, including 2,800 children, proceeded to the location for a celebration which included sermons, singing, and a picnic on the grounds, thereby creating the first Decoration Day."
Edit: I was informed that although the story is historically true the photograph is not from Charleston but a scene in Hampton, Virginia. This link has more information on the beginnings of Memorial Day