Decoration Day, a political cartoon, 1900 - 1905. public domain. "You bet I'm goin' to be a soldier, too, like my Uncle David, when I grow up."
Black soldiers on horseback in the Memorial Day Parade, Washington, D.C., 1942. public domain
Arlington National Cemetary, April, 2007. public domain.
Memorial Day is observed on the last Monday in May, though it had been formerly observed on May 30.
There are several movements afoot to restore the observation of Memorial Day to May 30.
After the Civil War, many communities in the South began to set aside a day to honor the Confederate soldiers who had died in the war. Soon, communities in the Midwest began honoring Union soldiers who'd died.
It is believed that the first memorial day observance was held in 1865 by liberated slaves at the historic race track in Charleston, formerly a confederate prison camp and a mass grave for Union soldiers who'd died during captivity.
This celebration was marked by a parade with thousands of freed blacks and Union soldiers, enjoying a picnic and singing Patriotic songs.
Waterloo, New York is credited as being the official birthplace of Memorial Day, as its first observance was in May 1866; Waterloo held observances every year thereafter.
Waterloo resident and distinguished citizen General John Murray, and Murray's friend, General John A. Logan, were notable in leading the call for a day of observance for soldiers to be held each year.
Apparently Logan was impressed with the way the ancient Greeks honored their heroes with flowers and laurels and decided that all soldiers' graves should be decorated with flowers each year.
In May, 1868, Logan declared that "Decoration Day" be observed, nationwide, as a day to remember fallen Union soldiers.
It was observed on May 30 of that year. This particular date was chosen because it was not associated with any civil war battle, and the graves of the Union soldiers were honored on this day.
In the beginning, some Southern states refused to go along with celebrating Decoration Day - partly due to lingering feelings of hostility toward the North and also because there were few Union army vets who lived in the South.
Columbus, Mississippi, was an exception and held its first Decoration Day observance a few weeks earlier in April, 1866, commemmorating both Union and Confederate soldiers who'd fallen during the civil war, and who were buried in the local cemetery.
Decoration Day was the official name until 1882 when the term Memorial Day was first used, but Memorial Day did not become common until after World War II; it was not common until 1967, when federal law declared Memorial Day as the official name.
It was a year later, in 1968, that Congress changed three holidays - Washington's Birthday, Columbus Day and Memorial Day to become a Monday holiday, marking the first three-day holiday weekends. This was the first time Columbus Day was recognized as an official holiday. This law took effect in 1971.
Veteran's Day was one of the original Monday holidays but it soon returned to its original observance of November 11.
In the South, many families celebrate Decoration Day the Sunday before Memorial Day, as a way to decorate graves of family members, not only those who died in service to this country.
Â Source: Memorial Day