Another Memorial Day, and another boring set of stories as to which town/place gets to claim credit for it -- in this case, Columbia, MS pits itself against Columbus, Georgia. Whatever.
Much more compelling are David Blight's reflections on "the first Decoration Day" in Charleston, South Carolina, May 1, 1865. This more celebratory piece, should be read together with Jim Downs, "Who Invented Memorial Day?," which discusses his important research on the devastating toll of disease on mobile African American populations during and just after the war. Short excerpts from each just after the jump break.
An excerpt from Blight:
In the struggle over memory and meaning in any society, some stories just get lost while others attain mainstream dominance.
Officially, as a national holiday, Memorial Day emerged in 1868 when General John A. Logan, commander-in-chief of the Grand Army of the Republic, the Union veterans organization, called on all former northern soldiers and their communities to conduct ceremonies and decorate graves of their dead comrades. On May 30, 1868, when flowers were plentiful, funereal ceremonies were attended by thousands of people in 183 cemeteries in twenty-seven states. The following year, some 336 cities and towns in thirty-one states, including the South, arranged parades and orations. The observance grew manifold with time. . . .
Over time several American towns, north and south, claimed to be the birthplace of Memorial Day. But all of them commemorate cemetery decoration events from 1866. Pride of place as the first large scale ritual of Decoration Day, therefore, goes to African Americans in Charleston. By their labor, their words, their songs, and their solemn parade of flowers and marching feet on their former owners' race course, they created for themselves, and for us, the Independence Day of the Second American Revolution.
And from Downs:
And from Downs: