It’s time to Break It Down!
(Please enjoy a reprised edition of “Break It Down!” This post was originally published May 30, 2012 at: http://thesphinxofcharlotte.blogspot.com, reposted May 27, 2015 at http://thesphinxofcharlotte.com as “Memorial Day: What Your Teacher Never Told You!,“ again on May 31, 2017, on May 29, 2019, and last on May 27, 2020.)
This year, the third consecutive month of May we’ve experienced some degree of COVID 19, we were presented with, what for most of us was no longer unique, but still somewhat different Memorial Day. It’s been more than a century since the United states has been caught up in a worldwide pandemic, the likes of the novel coronavirus. As such, most Americans have never experienced anything quite like what we’ve been dealing with for nearly the past two and a half years. But this is not a post about the so-called, “invisible enemy.” While we are in a much better place than when I logged this post in 2020, there is still much work to be done. There have been two doses of the vaccine, and two boosters to date. The rate has fallen precipitously since its peak, but as summer approaches, cases are rising again in many states, including here in North Carolina. More about all that in another post. Maybe.
OK, so Memorial Day was earlier this week. You may be familiar with my holiday week philosophy, which is: make it easy on the readers, who are always otherwise engaged, no matter the holiday. Of course, in the process, I am also giving myself a break. That makes for a natural win-win scenario.
- Utilize the KISS Principle, AKA, Keep It Short & Simple (also Keep It Simple Stupid)
- Convey new or “not widely circulated” information
- Always remember to emphasize points 1 and 2 above
Memorial Day is a federal holiday to honor America’s fallen soldiers. It originated after the Civil War. Falling between Easter and Independence Day, it is often equated with a late spring break, or a pre-summer respite.
The weekend typically includes a cornucopia of sports. For example this week included the NASCAR Coca-Cola 600, the NBA Playoffs, College Men’s Baseball playoffs, and College Women’s Softball competition, among others. I mentioned COVID-19 earlier, right? Scratch the sporting events.
Historically, there have been a plethora of activities thrown into the mix. As a result, the holiday is sometimes almost lost in the shuffle. That was less problematic this year. But wait; Memorial Day has a special cultural significance. In fact, it is because of that nexus we should pay special homage to this late spring holiday.
The first well-known observance of a Memorial Day type was held May 1, 1865 in Charleston, South Carolina. Over 250 Union soldiers that had been prisoners of war, died in Charleston, and were quickly buried in makeshift graves. A group of blacks, mostly freedmen, organized the observance and led cleanup and landscaping of the burial site.
Most of the nearly 10,000 people who attended were freedmen and their families. Of that number, 3.000 were children, newly enrolled in freedman’s schools. Mutual aid societies, black ministers, and white Northern missionaries were also in attendance.
David W. Blight, Professor of American History at Yale University, and Director of the school’s Gilder-Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, & Abolition, described the day this way:
“This was the first Memorial Day. African Americans invented Memorial Day in Charleston, South Carolina. What you have there is black Americans recently freed from slavery announcing to the world with their flowers, their feet, and their songs what the War had been about. What they basically were creating was the Independence Day of a Second American Revolution.”
Professor Blight conceded there is no evidence that the Charleston event led directly to the establishment of Memorial Day across the country. But the record is clear they formed the earliest truly large-scale event, complete with media coverage. Their effort was the prototype, if not the catalyst.
Having said that, I believe I honored the rules established above for this post:
- Told this story in a direct and uncomplicated fashion
- Presented information I am confident most readers did not know
- Recognized points 1 and 2, were accomplished and closed the post
Enjoy your bonus time, and be sure to reflect on “Memorial Day: What Your Teachers Never Told You! (Edition VI)”
I’m done; holla back!
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