I share this essay by esteemed scholar David Blight every year on Memorial Day because it is so important. Go read it. Here is a taste:
The war was over, and Memorial Day had been founded by African-Americans in a ritual of remembrance and consecration. The war, they had boldly announced, had been about the triumph of their emancipation over a slaveholders’ republic. They were themselves the true patriots.
Despite the size and some newspaper coverage of the event, its memory was suppressed by white Charlestonians in favor of their own version of the day. From 1876 on, after white Democrats took back control of South Carolina politics and the Lost Cause defined public memory and race relations, the day’s racecourse origin vanished.
The essay is based on Blight’s award-winning book on the same topic, which is a must-read for anyone interested in the Civil War, race relations, and the horrid undercurrent that has led America to nominate a racist bigot as a presidential candidate. I heartily recommend that book, too, which only continues to seem relevant.