Memorial Day always presents those of us fortunate enough to live in (or visit) Charleston with a host of great options. Warm weather’s arrival makes beach trips appealing. Spoleto Festival USA cranks up with a host of concerts and shows. And of course, there are too many sales, special events and cookouts to mention.
But amid all the fun, we should remain mindful of this holiday’s somber roots. We should fly our flags — at half staff from dawn to noon, then high until sunset — and pause for a moment of silence at 3 p.m. to honor the sacrifices of those who have fought and died for the freedoms our nation enjoys.
One special opportunity this year will unfold at Hampton Park. After the 3 p.m. moment of silence, the Memorial Day Band Concert for Piccolo Spoleto will follow. But this Memorial Day event isn’t being held there simply because it’s a spacious, attractive park that can handle a crowd, though it certainly is. The location was chosen to emphasize a long-overlooked but recently resurrected chapter of Charleston’s history.
In essence, the park is arguably where the nation’s first Memorial Day event was held on May 1, 1865, just a few weeks after the grueling, costly American Civil War finally came to an end.
Black people recently freed from enslavement may have organized the first #MemorialDay, say historians.
In 1865, Black residents in Charleston, SC held proper burials for Union soldiers put in a mass grave by Confederate captors — a year before the first annual commemoration. pic.twitter.com/0HFcXiozb4
— AJ+ (@ajplus) May 31, 2021