The Earliest Commemorations of Memorial Day
History indicates that one of the earliest commemorations of “Memorial Day” was organized by more than 1,000 recently freed slaves and held on May 1, 1865. Accompanied by regiments of the U.S. Colored Troops (including the Massachusetts 54th Infantry) and a handful of white Charlestonians, the men gathered in the camp three weeks after the Confederate surrender. This unusual procession entered the former camp to consecrate a more appropriate burial site for the dead Union soldiers. It was reported the group sang hymns, gave readings and distributed flowers around the cemetery which they dedicated to the “Martyrs of the Race Course.” In May 1868, General John A. Logan, the commander-in-chief of the Union veterans’ group known as the Grand Army of the Republic, issued a decree that May 30thwould be dubbed Decoration Day and that Americans should lay flowers and decorate the graves of all those who died in war. Some believe Logan chose May 30th because it was a rare day that didn’t fall on the anniversary of any Civil War battle and others believe the date was selected to ensure that flowers would be in full bloom across the entire country.
Although the term Memorial Day was used beginning in the 1880s, the holiday was officially known as Decoration Day for more than a century before it was changed by federal law. The Uniform Monday Holiday Act of 1968 went into effect, moving Memorial Day from its traditional observance on May 30th (regardless of the day of the week) to a set day—the last Monday in May. Each year since, Memorial Day commemorates men and women who died while in the military service. It is a holiday many of us spend at family gatherings, backyard BBQs or out on the town with friends and family. There are many ways to spend the day while honoring those who gave their lives for our liberties. Join the Lake Nona Veterans Club and the Central Florida Veterans Memorial Park Foundation at the Orlando VA Medical Center Memorial Park beginning at 10:00 a.m. on Monday, May 27thfor a special ceremony to honor the service of those who have fallen. On Fridays from 4 – 7 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. at all Orlando Lucky’s Markets enjoy a freshly grilled cheese burger or black bean burger and a side item for just six bucks. On Memorial Day weekend only, you can also sample a variety of other meats, including kabobs, ribs, steaks and more. The Memorial Weekend Day Party kicks off at 4:00 p.m. at Ember, 42 West Central Boulevard in downtown on Saturday, May 25th. For additional information about these and other Memorial Day events go to www.eventbrite.com or https://www.407area.com/memorialday/.
Even if you decide to spend Memorial Day in the City Beautiful golfing, fishing, theme park-hopping or relaxing, remember those 1,000 freed slaves and countless others who lost their lives fighting for American freedoms.
About the Author
Sharon Fletcher Jones is a true Libra, an action-ist, and a budget fashionista. The Portsmouth, Virginia native is also an employment specialist with Goodwill Industries, a life coach and an associate editor at ONYX Magazine. Stacey’s mom (literally) has got it going on. Fletcher Jones’ personal mantra is “It’s the dash that counts.”