Though Memorial Day was first formally declared in 1868 by General Logan, in charge of the GAR—an organization of Civil War vets, in order to decorate the graves of those who died in the Civil War, there are many cities and regions who claim to be the first to have celebrated this holiday before its formal adoption.
The historian David W. Blight in his Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory makes the case for Charleston, South Carolina on May 1, 1865. He says this celebration predates most of the other claimants, though it is unclear whether this celebration itself had any influence on General Logan in his official proclamation. However, the depth and sincerity of this ritual, Professor Blight continues, demonstrated a meaning to this day that more closely connects to what our Memorial Days have become.
As Professor Blight describes it in his book:
African Americans founded…
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