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Former Slaves Held The First Memorial Day Celebration




In the weeks after the Civil War ended, on a Monday morning, nearly 10,000 former slaves marched onto the grounds of the old Washington Race Course. Wealthy Charleston planters and socialites had gathered in old times. During the final year of the war, the track had been turned into a prison camp. Hundreds of Union soldiers died there.
For two weeks in April, former slaves had worked to bury the soldiers. Now they would give them a proper funeral.

The procession began at 9 a.m. as 2,800 black school children marched by their graves. It was May 1, 1865, but they called it Decoration Day
In 1868, Confederate Memorial Day got its start. The two holidays were kept separate, allegedly because Southerners did not want to celebrate a holiday to honor Union soldiers. 




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