White people have been using the “all lives matter” excuse for hundreds of years as racist white people whitewash a day of honoring black lives on the Civil War Decoration Day, in favor of all lives lost in battlefields.
Before there was a Memorial Day to remember the fallen soldiers who died in wars, there was a specific day called Decoration Day specifically meant to honor black freed soldiers.
There once was a time after the Civil War that black men who died for the Union weren’t recognized. If it weren’t for the black community for whom gathered to honor these black men, there might’ve not been a Memorial Day.
It was in 1866 when the New York Tribune and other national press reported that African-Americans of Charleston, South Carolina organized a traditional springtime festival what was then called the Black Decoration Day.
Black Decoration Day was started by the Union veterans in Salem, Illinois, and a man named Gen. John Logan, head of the fraternal group the Grand Army of the Republic, who spoke against the defeated Confederates and promoted freedom for all African-Americans, according to Alabama.
Logan, a white man who wanted more rights for freed slaves, was a State Senator, a Congressman, and a U.S. Senator from the state of Illinois, and he ran an unsuccessful bid for Vice President of the United States with then-presidential candidate James Blaine in the election of 1884.
The African-American community would clean up areas and landscape a burial ground called the “Martyrs of the Race Course.”
Thousands of people, most of whom were African-American, would gather on May 1 to commemorate the dead.
It was two years later on May 5, 1868, that it was proposed by Logan to turn this local May Day into a public holiday on May 30, then known as Decoration Day, to honor the dead, according to Alabama. It was a national day honoring American men and women.
Black Decoration Day was meant to remember those fighting on the right side of history, the Union Army, but all of that was changed when racist people wanted their favorite Confederate soldiers to be included.
White southern communities, fully aware of the existence of a black memorial ceremony, came together to honor their fallen Confederate soldiers in a similar fashion.
“The ladies of the South instituted this memorial day. They wished to annoy the Yankees; and now the Grand Army of the Republic in retaliation and from no worthier motive, have determined to annoy them by adopting their plan of commemoration,” according to the New York Times via Alabama.
According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, it’s hard to tell who originated the first “Memorial Day” despite ostensible evidence that Logan and company were first to hold their national event before two dozen Southern cities tried to emulate their success.
In 1971, Memorial Day became an official federal holiday where many Americans observe war dead soldiers by visiting cemeteries or memorials, holding family gatherings and participating in parades, and it marks the unofficial beginning of the summer season.
However, the most important observance from Memorial Day is the recognition of how white people stole from a small group of African-Americans who were trying to honor their own kind when no one else at the time was willing to do it.