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The Civil War Roots Of Memorial Day15:00
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Junior ROTC members from Revere High School help to plant flags on the Boston Common. Some 37,000 flags honoring the fallen members of the military from Massachusetts since the Revolutionary War will be placed for Memorial Day weekend. (Elise Amendola/AP)MoreCloseclosemore
Junior ROTC members from Revere High School help to plant flags on the Boston Common. Some 37,000 flags honoring the fallen members of the military from Massachusetts since the Revolutionary War will be placed for Memorial Day weekend. (Elise Amendola/AP)

When did Americans first observe Memorial Day? Why? The answer to both questions is as profoundly moving a story as you'll ever hear. It begins on a racetrack in Charleston, South Carolina in 1865. It is a history that is often forgotten or, in some cases, willfully suppressed.

Guest

David Blight, professor of history and director of the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance and Abolition at Yale.

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The New York Times: Forgetting Why We Remember

  • "The war was over, and Memorial Day had been founded by African-Americans in a ritual of remembrance and consecration. The war, they had boldly announced, had been about the triumph of their emancipation over a slaveholders’ republic. They were themselves the true patriots."

The Atlantic Monthly: The Civil War Isn’t Over

  • "The war ended with revolutionary and lasting results that echo down to the present day—especially in the two broad questions of racial equality and federalism. A great deal of American political, constitutional, and social history can be read through these two broad, likely eternal challenges."

This segment aired on May 30, 2016.

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