The first recorded organized public recognition of the war dead occurred on May 1, 1865, in Charleston, South Carolina. On that day, Freedmen (freed southern slaves) celebrated the service of the 257 Union soldiers buried at the Washington Race Course (now Hampton Park). They labeled the gravesite “Martyrs of the Race Course.” African Americans continued that tradition and named the celebration Decoration Day.
Memorial Day took on national significance following World War I when the nation began to recognize all those who gave the ultimate sacrifice during all conflicts. By the end of World War II, most of the celebrations were renamed to Memorial Day. Memorial Day did not become an official holiday until 1967 with the passage of the Uniform Holidays Act (sometimes referred to as the Monday Holiday Bill). Under the law, Memorial Day was set to the last Monday in May, changing it from the traditional May 30th.
The modern Memorial Day is a holiday celebrating the lives of those sacrificed in defense of the United States and its ideals at home and abroad. Today, we honor the memories of those who paid the ultimate sacrifice, from the days of the revolution to the conflicts in around the world, so that I have the freedom to write this blog and you can read and share it amongst your friends.