Although Memorial Day was established as a national holiday in May 1868 by General John A. Logan, archives discovered at Harvard University revealed that Memorial Day or “Decoration Day” had been organized and celebrated by a group of freed black slaves 3 years earlier (as early as 1865) (History.com).
Reportedly, U.S. Colored Troops and thousands of freed slaves including women and children organized together and sang hymns, brought flowers and wreaths and would lay them on the graves of the unknown colored soldiers who died during the Civil War (Blackhistory.com).
Yes, I have observed my family go to the cemetery and lay flowers on the grave of our dearly departed. More specifically I saw Memorial Day as a day in which we celebrated white men who lost their lives fighting for America. Honestly, speaking, I have had great difficulty identifying with this holiday.
Being an African American woman, Memorial Day has had little significance. I saw it as just another day in which our family got together to share food, drink, laughter, and have a great time with family. As I got older, I saw it simply as a day off from work with pay. But in contrast, today I feel a real connection as I celebrate this Memorial Day!
Now for many of us that did not know, Memorial Day and future Memorial Days will have meaning to us as African Americans because our ancestors played a significant role in getting it started!
What about you? How do you see Memorial Day? Do you see it as just a day off from work? Do you see it as a time you can spend with your family? But, what about its true significance? What significance does it have to you? Well, I want to say that I am glad I discovered African Americans played a significant role in this day for us all.