The day given to the memorialize fallen soldiers was actually started by a group of freed slaves. This, according to David Blight, a white author of several books on African American history.
Blight claims that several freed slaves commenced to properly bury soldiers who had died in the Civil War.
Writes Blight, Union soldiers were kept in horrible conditions...; at least 257 died of exposure and disease and were hastily buried in a mass grave behind the grandstand. Some twenty-eight black workmen went to the site, re-buried the Union dead properly, and built a high fence around the cemetery... Then, black Charlestonians in cooperation with white missionaries and teachers, staged an unforgettable parade of 10,000 people.
And so it is today that we celebrate Memorial Day; a day full of parades, picnics, time off from work, and of course remarks by the country's Commander in Chief who reminds Americans to remember those who have served this country.
The president laid a wreath at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery where he remarked:
"These 600 acres are home to Americans from every part of the country who gave their lives in every corner of the globe. When a revolution needed to be waged and a Union needed to be saved, they left their homes and took up arms for the sake of an idea. From the jungles of Vietnam to the mountains of Afghanistan, they stepped forward and answered the call. They fought for a home they might never return to; they fought for buddies they would never forget. And while their stories may be separated by hundreds of years and thousands of miles, they rest here, together, side-by-side, row-by-row, because each of them loved this country, and everything it stands for, more than life itself. Today, we come together, as Americans, to pray, to reflect, and to remember these heroes."
President Obama also spoke at the Vietnam War Memorial on the National Mall that also included actor Tom Selleck, First Lady Michelle Obama, Vice President and Dr. Jill Biden who were also joined by Secretary of Defense, The Honorable Leon Panetta, Secretary of Interior, The Honorable Ken Salazar, Secretary of Transportation, The Honorable Ray LaHood, Secretary of Veterans Affairs, General (ret.) Eric Shinseki, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, and Commander of the Military District of Washington, Major General Michael Linnington, who seemingly were unaware that African Americans and other minorities served in the U.S. military, as evidenced by the number of Caucasian soldiers who were being honored today.