Before Veterans Day there was Memorial Day. Yale Historian David W. Blight has argued that the first Memorial Day was celebrated by Blacks in Charleston, South Carolina. It was celebrated by a march on an old planter’s racecourse that had become a cemetery after the Civil War in May of 1865.
First Memorial Day*
A little dose of the Farewell,
A small glimmering of the Eternal dust,
That’s Blown from the Place that never dies,
That spark of smell of lingering Flame.
Tho’ never warmed but lit our way,
Down History remembered,
that well of memory.
So much their marching to the tuneless gibes, they outmatched the troops of Billy’s Brigade,
The gasping bellows breathless blows,
and Freedom’s ashes still at their feet.
Timelessly stepping towards the Promised Land on Emancipation’s long parade.
Not prisoners, not ranked,
Stood on the racecourse now unnamed,
once the planters strode.
The March goes on,
until at rest their stand is made over all of Freedom’s rows.
Albert Turner Goins, Sr.