CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – Charleston City leaders gathered at Hampton Park on Thursday to celebrate Decoration Day, honoring the lives of Union soldiers who died during the Civil War.
“They were here to memorialize, to honor, and decorate those individuals who have given the ultimate sacrifice,” said Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg.
257 African American soldiers serving in the Union army during the Civil War were buried at Hampton Park. Now they’re being honored by city leaders and local veterans who grew up down the street.
“They marched around this park and laid flowers at the graves that have been reinterred right here at Hampton Park,” said Mayor Tecklenburg.
Thousands of African American’s gathered to ensure the fallen soldiers received a proper burial and to honor those lost in the fight, setting the standard for Memorial Day’s to come.
“These African descendants, patriots, ensured that United States soldiers regardless of race were laid to rest respectfully. They took the time to honor those who were allies to honor that freedom for the virtue of their service,” says Dr. J. Goosby Smith, Assistant Provost for Diversity and Director of the Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation Center at The Citadel.
The International African American Museum says taking the time to remember the origins of Memorial Day is significant not only to the Holy City but to the country.
“This is memorabilia and something different. You have every right to celebrate but your first thought is to honor those who fought,” says Dr. Tonya M. Matthews, CEO of the International African American Museum.
Dr. Matthews says the museum will have “freed man badges” from those enslaved soldiers that fought during the Civil War that they are going to put on display next year when the museum opens.