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  • Writer's pictureKaren Brittingham-Edmond

The Honor And History Of Memorial Day From The Relaunched Echo!

Updated: May 30, 2023

Currently, Memorial Day Honors veterans of all wars, but initially, Memorial Day originated from America's deadliest conflict, The Civil War. Per some estimates, 620,000 soldiers died. And approximately two-thirds of deceased soldiers can be attributed to the diseases associated with dysentery, measles, chicken pox, mumps, whooping cough, and smallpox. The honoring of these brave Union soldiers was initiated immediately after the war. A Time Magazine report written by Olivia B. Waxman on May 22, 2022, titled "The Overlooked Black History of Memorial Day" shares that "the earliest annual commemoration of women who laid flowers on soldiers' graves in the Civil War hospital town of Columbus, Miss., in April 1866." But historians like the Pulitzer Prize winner David Blight found new evidence that formerly enslaved people decorated soldiers' graves a year earlier to "ensure their story gets told too."

The article further states that "Blight's 2001 book Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory, a commemoration organized by formerly enslaved people and some white missionaries took place on May 1, 1865, in Charleston, S.C., at a former planters' racetrack where Confederates held captured Union soldiers during the last year of the war. "At least 257 prisoners died, many of disease, and were buried in unmarked graves, so black residents of Charleston decided to give them a proper burial."

South Carolina's Black Charlestonians are noted to maintain a graveyard plus built a 10-foot-tall white fence around the resting place where Union Army prisoners of war died. Black citizens posted a large sign at the fence archway entering the race track that spelled "Martyrs of the Race Course" in Black letters. Per the Charleston Daily Courier and the New York Tribune, approximately 10,000 citizens, mostly Black, participated in the May 1, 1865 tribute. Per the South Carolina Daily Courier, at 9:00 A.M., an estimated 3,000 Black schoolchildren paraded around the race track holding roses and singing the Union song "John Brown's Body." The children were followed by adults representing aid societies for freed Black men and women. Black pastors delivered sermons, led attendees in prayer, plus sang classic negro spirituals.

James Redpath, whose family immigrated from Scotland to Kalamazoo, Michigan in 1849, who worked previously as a printer that wrote antislavery articles under the pseudonym "Berwick" (the name of his hometown in England,) was the director of Freedman's Education in the region. Redpath, in 1856, interviewed John Brown just days after the massacre at Pottawatomie Creek. Redpath and John Brown shared the same abolitionist views plus advocated for reparations for slavery for enslaved Blacks in North America. Redpath assisted with the organization of 30 speeches by Union officers, missionaries, and Black ministers. In the afternoon, three regiments of White and Black Union soldiers marched around the graves and staged a drill in Charleston, South Carolina.

On a side note, In 1858, John Brown encouraged Redpath to move to Boston to help rally support for his plan for a Southern slave insurrection. After John Brown's raid on Harpers Ferry (1859) failed, Redpath wrote the first and highly sympathetic biography of the executed abolitionist, The Public Life of Capt. John Brown (1860) The New York Tribune noted the May 1, 1865 memorial as "a procession of friends and mourners as South Carolina and the United States never saw before." The gravesites looked like "one mass of flowers," and "the breeze wafted the sweet perfumes from them," and "tears of joy" were shed." Per American Historian David William Blight, a Sterling Professor of History, of African American Studies, and American Studies and Director of the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition at Yale University confirmed that "African Americans had founded Memorial Day in a ritual of remembrance and consecration."

The fact that the formerly enslaved people' originated the Memorial Day tribute is not well taught. And is symbolic of the struggle that would follow, as African Americans' fight to be fully recognized as citizens and compensated for their contributions to American society continues to this day. Waxman further shared this in her article. The Sin of Chattel Slavery in North America was horrendous. Confederates almost won with the assistance of their long-time Hispanic supporters, with whom many still value Confederate and Federate beliefs to this day. To learn more, please read the article by Yalidy Matos of The American Prospect below.

Santos Benavides. Colonel Santos Benavides became the highest-ranking Tejano to serve the Confederacy. Born in Laredo in 1823

America would be worse off if the Confederates and their Hispanic supporters won the Civil War. Hispanics throughout the Southeast, most notably Louisiana, Alabama, and Florida, would fight for the Confederacy in large numbers. (Clarification: Hispanic refers to anyone with at least one ancestor from Spain, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Central or South America.) Although Mexico provided the majority of support to the Confederates before and after the abolition of slavery, Americans must be reminded that Mexicans were not alone in supporting Confederate efforts. Per the course of American history, Spanish immigrants in New York City to Mexicans who suddenly found themselves American citizens. In the wake of the Feb 2, 1848, Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo to wealthy Creole planters in the deep South. Hispanics both played an essential role in supporting the Confederate Army and desiring to see African Americans enslaved for life historically. Despite the correlation that many Hispanics have African bloodlines directly relating to the global African diaspora caused by the Transatlantic Slave Trade from the 1500s to the 1800s.

Per the Library of Congress, "Black and white abolitionists in the first half of the nineteenth century waged a biracial assault against slavery. Their efforts proved to be extremely effective. Abolitionists focused attention on slavery and made it difficult to ignore. They heightened the rift that had threatened to destroy the nation's unity even as early as the Constitutional Convention." As of May 25, 2023, President Joe Biden has nominated Air Force Gen. Charles "C.Q." Brown as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, selecting a history-making Black fighter pilot as the nation's highest-ranking military officer. "If confirmed by the Senate, Brown would become the second Black chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Air Force General Charles Brown's confirmation would also mark the first time the U.S. has had a Black Joint Chiefs of Staff and Black Defense secretary, (Lloyd Austin,) serving simultaneously," per the U.S.A. Today's article by Joey Garrison - published on May 25, 2023. President Joe Bidens's timely selection of a Black Joint Chief of Staff reflects Memorial Day's account of how far Black and White military relations have formed since the Civil War Era.

President Joe Biden selection of Air Force Gen. Charles "C.Q." Brown as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

With that said, the relaunched Echo wishes all of our veterans a big God Bless you and a happy Memorial Day. Plus encourages all citizens to preserve and protect historic African American burial sites in New Jersey where Civil War soldiers are laid to rest, such as

  • St. Thomas A.M.E. Zion Pine Brook Churchyard

  • Shadow Rest Cemetary, Pine Brook, NJ (Tinton Falls)

  • Black-owned Ruffin Cemetery located in Tinton Falls, N.J.

  • Quinn Chapel's A.M.E. of Atlantic Highlands Crystal Stream Cemetery, situated in Navesink, N.J., To name a few.

On a side note, Pine Brook, Reeveytown, and Riceville were freed Black towns full of commerce and social activities. Military law confirms that veterans' burial sites are not to be disturbed but cared for.

Unfortunately, Governor Phil Murphy's administration has allocated desecration measures by appointing Cari Faris, a Mexican lawyer, to be the N.J. Board of Cemeteries Acting Director, who immediately implemented Jim Crow measures to allow Louise Cicalese of Long Branch and his Middle Eastern business partner Micheal Baratta of Rumson N.J. with their undocumented workers to harass cemeteries, Black landowners, the immediate neighboring communities and churches so that they could illegally and unethically have access to historic Black-owned land and cemeteries where Civil War Veterans are laid to rest.

Formation of Black soldiers after the Spanish-American War, circa 1899

Murphy partnered with real-estate developers, who implemented Jim Crow leasing practices to support gerrymandering efforts orchestrated by non-Black minority special interest groups. Who's funded by Micheal Bloombergs New American Economy and other White nationalist and Hispanic Affairs organizations. In hopes of decreasing Black citizens' voting power and moving Black citizens out of historically Black populated areas in New Jersey by design. With the assistance of historically misinformed Black leadership and historical institutions. Unaware of the long-term partnership of racist White America and Hispanics.

Hence as Waxman's article confirms the ongoing struggle that would follow, African Americans' fight to be

  • Respected,

  • Fully recognized as citizens, and

  • Compensated for their contributions to American society continues to this day.

Interestingly duplicated with the same two primary adversaries to Black citizens' advancement, access to reparations, and freedom.

Click the link above to learn more about U.S. Army Col. Charles Young.

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