It is a surreal feeling to know that you could go to war and fight for your country, survive the war and instead of coming back as a celebrated hero, be assaulted and lynched by the people whose freedom you fought for them to have. That was the reality of many black veterans who returned from World War I and World War II, a history that is not taught. For fear of black people becoming to “uppity” and demanding their rights after coming back from war, there were white people who needed to make examples of black veterans and keep them in their place, that they owed nothing to these soldiers who went off to fight a fight for them.
Today is Memorial Day and while many of us celebrate the holiday with barbecues and trips to the beach, I think it is also important to remember the solemn history behind this holiday. In today’s New York Times, David W. Blight published an article recounting the origins of Memorial Day after the Civil War through Reconstruction, and how the marginal stories of the holiday have been largely erased by the mainstream official story. Blight, who is currently a professor of history and the director of the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance and Abolition at Yale, will be releasing soon his new book, “American Oracle: The Civil War in the Civil Rights Era.” Have a great Memorial Day!