Facing South

INSTITUTE INDEX: The Southern roots of Memorial Day

Facing South
Facing South
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charleston_union_graves.pngYear in which former slaves in Charleston, S.C. held a funeral procession to honor Union soldiers who died in a local Confederate prison camp: 1865

Number of people who took part in the May 1 procession, called Decoration Day, held after the freedmen dug individual graves for the soldiers (in photo), who had been buried en masse: nearly 10,000

Number of African-American children who marched past the graves, strewing flowers and softly singing "John Brown's Body" and "The Star-Spangled Banner": 2,800

Number of Union graves dug at the camp, which was a race course before the war: 257

Number of members of Friends of the Martyrs and the Patriotic Association of Colored Men who dug the graves: 24

Years later that Waterloo, N.Y. celebrated a similar version of Decoration Day, which has often been wrongly credited with starting the Memorial Day tradition: 1

Year in which Memorial Day was officially proclaimed for May 30 by Gen. John Logan, national commander of a Union veterans group called the Grand Army of the Republic: 1868

Year in which a separate Confederate Memorial Day tradition began in the South: 1868

Date on which Texas honors the Confederate war dead: 1/19

Date for Alabama, Florida, Georgia and Mississippi: 4/26

For Louisiana and Tennessee: 6/3

Year by which Memorial Day was recognized by all of the Northern states, though the South refused until the holiday was broadened after World War One from honoring just the Civil War dead to those soldiers who died in all U.S. wars: 1890

Year when, out of concern that Americans were forgetting the true meaning Memorial Day, the Clinton White House created the National Moment of Remembrance: 2000

Time on Memorial Day at which Americans are asked to pause and consider the true meaning of the holiday: 3 p.m.

(Click on figure to go to source. 1865 photo of the African-American reconstruction of the Union cemetery in Charleston, S.C. from the Library of Congress.)

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