Former Charleston, South Carolina Slaves Begin The First Memorial Day
On May 1, 1865 over 10,000 former slaves marched onto the former Washington Race Course which had been turned into a prison camp for Union Soldiers to commemorate the hundreds of Soldiers who had died on those grounds. The African American freedman had worked in the previous weeks burying the bodies of the soldiers. They also cleaned up the grounds while creating an enclosure and an arch that stated “Martyrs of the Race Course”. The day which was called “Decoration Day” was attended by the freedman, teachers, missionaries and members of the National Print Press. The marchers brought flowers, sang songs, prayed, listened to sermons and later had picnics. The was the precedent to our now celebrated “Memorial Day”.
Hampton Park now encompasses the area of the Washington Race Course.