Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day - Freed Slaves Started This Holiday in Remembrance of Fallen Union Soldiers


Memorial Day is a United States federal holiday observed on the last Monday of May. Formerly known as Decoration Day, which was first recorded to have been observed by Freedmen (freed enslaved southern blacks) in Charleston, South Carolina in 1865, at the Washington Race Course, to remember the fallen Union soldiers of the Civil War. Today, what is now known as Memorial Day, commemorates all U.S. Service Members who died while in military service. The recognition of the fallen was then enacted under the name Memorial Day by an organization of Union veterans — the Grand Army of the Republic — to honor Union soldiers of the American Civil War. Over time, it was extended after World War I to honor all Americans who have died in all wars.

Memorial Day often marks the start of the summer vacation season, and Labor Day its end.

Begun as a ritual of remembrance and reconciliation after the Civil War, by the early 20th century, Memorial Day was an occasion for more general expressions of memory, as ordinary people visited the graves of their deceased relatives, whether they had served in the military or not. It also became a long weekend increasingly devoted to shopping, family get-togethers, fireworks, trips to the beach, and national media events such as the Indianapolis 500 auto race, held since 1911 on the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend.

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