Memorial Day: another great thing black folk gave to America

1865 was a heavy year for the USA.

on April 9th, Robert E. Lee surrendered to General Ulysses S Grant in Appomattox, ending the Civil War

it took a little while for soldiers to really get it that the war was over. and in some ways it wasn’t.

case in point: five days after Lee surrendered, Honest Abe was shot in the head while watching a damn play.

but by May most of the soldiers had packed up and made it back home to pick up the pieces.

A troop called the 21st United States Colored Infantry made it back to their home in Charleston, South Carolina. They found it in ruins. It was so bad most of the white folk had left and there were only about 10,000 black people still there – a third of them children.

But when the troops came home there was a huge parade of all the townspeople, preachers, and Union prisoners. The Rebels had turned the local race track into a prison. A horrible prison where over 250 soldiers died.

The first order of business that first day in May was to rebury the war dead, many of whom were white soldiers, into proper graves, surrounded by flowers and beauty.

That’s right: the first Memorial Day was started by newly freed black soldiers and their families honoring the fallen white Union soldiers who helped free them.