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The Origins of Memorial Day in America: Rooted in a History of Former Slaves and Bravery

Cynthia Brooke

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Memorial Day is widely celebrated in the United States, as a way to remember the heroism and sacrifice of those fallen American soldiers. The day has become a time of celebration and community gatherings. With parades, food, and fireworks., it’s just like July 4th. But, while we all know the origins of other American holidays (including the 4th of July), Memorial Day is still shrouded in lost and misunderstood history. The full story is not known, and it’s quite a tale! 

Who Invented Memorial Day? 

The first acknowledged Memorial Day is linked with the tragic loss of life in Charleston, South Carolina that took place toward the end of the Civil War. Hundreds of Union soldiers were left for dead at the Washington Race Course, a makeshift prisoner-of-war camp by the Confederate side. With Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s abrupt surrender at Appomattox Court House, Virginia, on April 9, 1865. The war had taken a brutal toll on both sides, but the end of the war inspired a mass exodus of Charleston by soldiers and citizens alike. Former slaves stayed behind. Inspired by patriotic fervor, they called themselves the “Patriotic Association of Colored Men.” They took it upon themselves to bring honor and dignity to the fallen soldiers left in the race-course prison in unmarked graves when the Confederate soldiers fled. 

They excavated the unmarked mass graves and then dug 257 individual graves, surrounded by a fence to ensure a place of honor and security. Once their final memorial was complete, the community turned out for “Decoration Day,” which is now recognized by many as the first Memorial Day, in 1865.  The event included the march on the race track, singing by 2,800 black school children, preaching by black ministers, and the wide-spread decoration of the graves.  It was a way to honor the soldiers, who’d been viewed as martyrs by the Patriotic Association of Colored Men. 

The Rest is History 

Tragic loss and sacrifice are at the center of virtually every version of the first Memorial Day celebrations, but the scale is important. The Decoration Day tradition was later launched in Waterloo, New York (and yes, they claim to have invented the first Memorial Day). Memorial celebrations for Confederate soldiers took place in April 1866, and then Union Major General John A. Logan declared May 5, 1868, to be Decoration Day. There are a number of conflicting reports and claims for the events and meaning of the commemorations that took place following the cessation of hostilities at the end of the Civil War. But that last event took place at  Arlington National Cemetery. The formalization of the event at Arlington, with the mass decoration of graves with flowers and flags, is part of why the 1868 event is widely considered to be the first national Memorial Day event in US History. 

Memorial Day was then set as a May 30th national holiday, and it has continued to evolve. The true history of the day is complicated by historical bias and the fickle memories of the participants, but the role of these men and women who had once been slaves is important. After all, the Emancipation Proclamation, issued on January 1, 1863, was just a few years old when the war ended. Former slaves signed up to become Union soldiers en masse. An estimated 25,000 soldiers fought for the Union Army, but approximately 10% of their ranks were former slaves. They fought bravely and with distinction. In fact, 16 black soldiers were awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for their heroism in battle. It’s about time that we recognized the hidden stories that have for so long gone untold. 

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You Will Not Believe These Classic Era Celebrities Who are Still Rocking Their Golden Years

Anjali DeSimone

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Past and Present

Have you ever watched a classic movie from Hollywood’s Golden Era and wondered where are they now, or just assumed that they were not here? Read on to see some of the biggest stars from days gone by who are ruing their own world in the new millennium.

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Brave Babysitter Steps Up, Saves Child From Dangerous Burglar

Brooke Hurbert

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Making the decision to hand your child over to a babysitter can be a hard one. Every parent has that nagging thought that runs through their head, “What if something goes wrong?”. Jonathan Lai and his wife called on Jenna Lee Baker in order to watch their three-year-old son for an afternoon. What seemed like a regular afternoon soon turned into a nightmare situation. Keep on reading to find out how Jenny turned into a modern-day superhero!

Welcome to Irvine

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Jonathan Lai and his family are based out of Irvine, CA. As a tightly-knit family, Irvine has plenty to offer. The metropolitan area is located in Orange County, CA. The area is known for being home to some truly amazing local attractions. In fact, Irvine is considered one of the best cities to live in the entire United States, at least according to Business Insider and WalletHub! Still, that doesn’t mean that tragedy cannot strike!

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40 of the Worlds scariest bridges

Brooke Hurbert

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Everyone has a fear of something and fear of bridges is not less a fear. There are some bridges in the world which are very scary and even dangerous to cross over. These bridges in different parts of the world have set records as the most hazardous and the scariest bridges in the world. For people with fear of bridges; gephyrophobia, these are bridges you definitely want to stay away from but for the fun-loving daring people then this is an adventure you may want to venture into.

The Royal Gorge Bridge, Colorado;

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This bridge found in the USA was made in 1929. During the time of its building, it did not have any wind cables which makes it very interesting. It was not until 1979 when wind cables were added to the bridge. It is in the highest suspension point in the United States which is similar to its historic significance, crossing 955 feet high over the Arkansas river. The Royal Gorge Bridge has held record as the tallest bridge up until 2001 when the Liuguanghe Bridge of China surpassed it. It spins 1260 feet over a rocky canyon.

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