HONORING FALLEN SOLDIERS: AMERICA’S FIRST MEMORIAL DAY, May 3-4, 2002, Charleston, South Carolina.
In his prize-winning book, Race and Reunion (Harvard University Press, 2001), historian David Blight offered a rich portrait of a Decoration Day ceremony held at the Hampton Park Racecourse on May 1st, 1865 in Charleston, South Carolina. Graves were decorated, speeches were offered, and thousands of Charlestonians were part of the festivities.
Blight and others have come to believe this may have been the first of the public ceremonies honoring the fallen soldiers of the American Civil War. This certainly was one of the first public events which set into motion the rituals that we today have come to know as Memorial Day.
In honor of this historical event, The College of Charleston, The Citadel, the Ft. Sumter National Park, the Charleston Department of Parks, and the Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs, with a grant from the South Carolina Humanities Council, will sponsor a two-day program, May 3-4, 2002 in Charleston, South Carolina. All events are free and open to the public.
Honoring Fallen Soldiers will begin with a 3:30-5:00 P.M. symposium on Friday, May 3rd at Bond Hall 165 on the Citadel campus-- featuring lectures by David Blight of Amherst College (“Decoration Days”) and Thomas Brown of the University of South Carolina (“Sites and Rituals of Civil War Memory”). A reception will follow in the Citadel’s Holliday Alumni Center from 5:00-7:00 P.M.
On Saturday May 4th, a Re-Enactment Program of the 1865 Event will commence in Hampton Park near the Gazebo at 10:00 A.M. (In case of severe weather: Jenkins Hall Auditorium, The Citadel). This event will include living history speakers: Robert Smalls, James Redpath, Col. Martin Delany, Esther Hawks Hill, Francis Rollin, Rev. Richard H. Cain, among others. The day will feature a performance by members of the Citadel Gospel Choir, songs by students of the James Simons Elementary School, as well as the Rural Prayer Warriors. The morning ceremony will also highlight the unveiling of a model of a permanent marker to be erected in Hampton park to honor the 1865 event.
At 1:30 p.m. all are invited on a guided tour of the Ft. Sumter Education Center at Liberty Square. Followed by a 2:30 P.M. Bus Tour (Limit of 40, on a first come-first serve basis) of African American Civil War Sites of Charleston.
The bus will take participants to a Reception to be held at the Avery Center for African American History and Culture, College of Charleston, 125 Bull Street. (The bus will transport those on the tour back to Liberty Square at 5:30 P.M.) Avery Reception: 4:00-6:00 P.M.
For further information, please contact program co-chairs Catherine Clinton, Mark Clark Visiting Chair of History, the Citadel, (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Dr. Bernard Powers, Department of History, College of Charleston (email@example.com)
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