Chamblee54

Historic Revisionism And Memorial Day

Posted in History by chamblee54 on May 29, 2013

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There is a bit of polemic on the internet now, The revolutionary origins of Memorial Day and its political hijacking. It tells the story of an incident in Charleston SC, where newly freed slaves buried some Union soldiers who died in a prison camp. The incident is described as the first Decoration Day, which later evolved into Memorial Day. As the article tells it, this Holiday was intended as a revolutionary statement about Black freedom, and was whitewashed into an all caucasian affair. This is not a good summary of the article, but should do for now. You can read it for yourself.

PG read the article, and started to get a headache. While researching a Memorial Day. post, he came across the Charleston incident. Apparently, it did happen. There were also numerous other remembrances of the fallen soldiers. The War Between the States was an incredibly bloody affair, with many families losing someone. The urge to remember these fallen soldiers was overwhelming. The custom of Decoration Day would probably have happened with, or without, the Charleston incident. It is incorrect to say that those former slaves invented Decoration Day.

There was an exchange of messages. PG left a comment, “That article is not completely true.”

Lendon Sadler Thank you for your comment concerning the historical roots of Memorial day, but could you be so kind as to explain a bit more the inaccuracy contained in the posting.For my sake, and that of my friends, it would be greatly appreciated. Thanks. And please feel comfortable saying whatever is on your mind in my pages. Sincere regards, Lendon

Luther Mckinnon I will have to think about it some. Also, I am not sure that I have an interest in exploring this issue. I did some research about the celebration in Charleston. It apparently did take place. However, there were other people decorating graves before that. After the carnage of the War Between the States, there seemed to be a lot of activity towards remembering the dead. The slaves in Charleston definitely did not “invent” decoration day. That they had one of the earliest celebrations is notable, but they should not take sole credit. As to the rest of the article… i would have to think about it some, and to tell you the truth I don’t know if I am particularly interested. One of the pieces I read about the evolution of Memorial Day mentioned World War One, which was the next major war the US was involved in after WBTS. Here again, there was a lot of dead soldiers to remember. This was when the holiday evolved into a remembrance of soldiers from all wars. Anyway, I hope this is helpful, and maybe we can explore some of the other issues of that article.

The article in question is at a site called Liberation, “Newspaper of the Party for Socialism and Liberation at LiberationNews.org.” There is a some historic revisionism, with statements like this. “In 1877, the Northern capitalist establishment decisively turned their backs on Reconstruction, striking a deal with the old slavocracy to return the South to white supremacist rule in exchange for the South’s acceptance of capitalist expansion.” Whatever, dude.

The custom of Decoration/Memorial Day is pretty much what it says it is… to remember the fallen soldiers of our wars, especially the ones with lots of casualties. According to this source, it was World War I that facilitated the transition from Decoration Day, focused on WBTS, to a Memorial Day that honored the dead of all wars. It almost certainly was not done as a gesture of white supremacy.

The so-called lessons of history are very versatile. You can find whatever facts are convenient for your agenda, and if you don’t get what you need you can make some up. After all, there is nobody alive today that can remember 1877. We have to take the word of whoever tells the tale of a “deal with the old slavocracy”. Sometimes, these stories are more plausible than others.

Sometimes, things just don’t ring true. “The concept that the population must “remember the sacrifice” of U.S. service members, without a critical reflection on the wars themselves, did not emerge by accident. It came about in the Jim Crow period as the Northern and Southern ruling classes sought to reunite the country around apolitical mourning, which required erasing the “divisive” issues of slavery and Black citizenship.”

Pictures are from The Library of Congress.

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2 Responses

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  1. Memorial Day | Chamblee54 said, on May 21, 2014 at 10:10 am

    […] erasing the “divisive” issues of slavery and Black citizenship.” This is a double repost. Notes about the Charleston parade are showing up on facebook. This incident almost […]

  2. […] not the only time the fallen soldiers were formally remembered. The custom of Decoration Day, later Memorial Day, would have happened with, or without, the Charleston parade. ~ @RoddeyJones Humbling concession […]


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