African Americans Started Memorial Day

African Americans Started Memorial Day

Yesterday as I was driving from San Francisco to Oakland, I heard a news report on NPR that made me cry. Voter suppression, a.k.a. Voter ID laws, have gone into effect in Arkansas, my father’s birthplace. A report today from Zachary Roth of MSNBC states:

Among the problems reported from Tuesday: poll workers quizzing voters on their personal information, including address and birthdate, after being shown ID, and using electronic card strip readers to verify ID—both of which go far beyond what the law allows. Some voters without proper ID are said to have been wrongly denied provisional ballots. And large numbers of absentee ballots also are in danger of not being counted, thanks to the ID law.

I cried because I know that this is yet another attempt to re-fight the Civil War and to deny the vote to Black folks. “When will it end?” I thought.

That evening, I was sent this amazing photo (above) and history lesson (‘Who Started Memorial Day?’ on Huffington Post). I had lunch with donors to EJS at Zuni Café earlier in the day — donors who are also my friends. We talked about whether or not we are optimistic about the chance for racial justice and ultimately agreed that we are.

Realizing that my ancestors started Memorial Day made me smile. Given the brilliant and knowledgeable people who will receive this, I am fairly certain someone will tell me that this rendition of history is incorrect, but for this short shining moment, I am basking in the glow of the fortitude and brilliance of my people.

I will send this to Clive Bundy, Donald Sterling, and the knucklehead who called President Obama a nigger.

Thank you to all those who gave their lives making America a more free and just nation.


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