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One of the Earliest Memorial Day Ceremonies Was Held by Freed Slaves

May 24, 2019 in History

By Dave Roos

At the close of the Civil War, freed slaves in Charleston honored fallen Union soldiers.

Memorial Day was born out of necessity. After the American Civil War, a battered United States was faced with the task of burying and honoring the 600,000 to 800,000 Union and Confederate soldiers who had died in the single bloodiest military conflict in American history. The first national commemoration of Memorial Day was held in Arlington National Cemetery on May 30, 1868, where both Union and Confederate soldiers are buried.

Several towns and cities across America claim to have observed their own earlier versions of Memorial Day or “Decoration Day” as early as 1866. (The earlier name is derived from the fact that decorating graves was and remains a central activity of Memorial Day.) But it wasn’t until a remarkable discovery in a dusty Harvard University archive the late 1990s that historians learned about a Memorial Day commemoration organized by a group of freed black slaves less than a month after the Confederacy surrendered in 1865.

Back in 1996, David Blight, a professor of American History at Yale University, was researching a book on the Civil War when he had one of those once-in-a-career eureka moments. A curator at Harvard’s Haughton Library asked if he wanted to look through two boxes of unsorted material from Union veterans.

“There was a file labeled ‘First Decoration Day,’” remembers Blight, still amazed at his good fortune. “And inside on a piece of cardboard was a narrative handwritten by an old veteran, plus a date referencing an article in The New York Tribune. That narrative told the essence of the story that I ended up telling in my book, of this march on the race track in 1865.”

The clubhouse at the Charleston racetrack where the 1865 Memorial Day events took place.

The race track in question was the Washington Race Course and Jockey Club in Charleston, South Carolina. In the late stages of the Civil War, the Confederate army transformed the formerly posh country club into a makeshift prison for Union captives. More than 260 Union soldiers died from disease and exposure while being held in the race track’s open-air infield. Their bodies were hastily buried in a mass grave behind the grandstands.

READ MORE: 8 Things You May Not Know About Memorial Day

When Charleston fell and Confederate troops evacuated …read more


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Ally Angst: Why America's Iran Policy Doesn't Have International Support

May 24, 2019 in Economics

By Ted Galen Carpenter

Ted Galen Carpenter

Washington’s NATO allies are openly balking at the Trump
administration’s increasingly belligerent policy toward Iran. Even
the British government, which can normally be counted upon to be a
loyal U.S. junior partner during international crises, has shown no
enthusiasm for the latest confrontation. In a small but symbolic
gesture, Spain has now pulled a warship it had contributed to a
U.S.-led naval group in the Persian Gulf that was there ostensibly
to mark a historic seafaring anniversary. Spanish officials noted
that the mission now seemed focused on alleged threats from Iran.
Acting Defense Minister Margarita Robles stated tartly
that the U.S. government “has taken a decision outside of the
framework of what had been agreed with the Spanish Navy.”

Other NATO governments are uneasy about Washington’s decision to
deploy B-52 bombers and take other steps in response to
Israeli-provided intelligence that Tehran was planning attacks on
U.S. forces in the Middle East. The Trump administration’s latest
move has brought simmering U.S.-European disagreements about Iran
policy to a boil. Washington’s withdrawal last year from the Joint
Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) regarding Tehran’s nuclear
program generated noticeable pushback from the other signatories to
the agreement, including Britain, France, and Germany. All three
countries made it clear that they would not
 the United States in reimposing economic sanctions
on Tehran. Indeed, they and other European Union (EU) members
openly sought ways that they could cushion Iran (and their own
businesses) from the worst effects of the U.S. action.

The allies were annoyed again this year when the administration
continued to insist that the European signatories withdraw from the
JCPOA. Germany and other countries flatly refused. Last
month, Washington exacerbated already serious transatlantic
frictions when it eliminated some of the boycott waivers it had
granted to EU firms. Allied governments sharply
that step and Washington’s other moves to tighten
sanctions. Iran soon stated that it would no longer abide by some
JCPOA provisions and would resume enriching
. News about the Israeli intelligence
 about planned Iranian attacks broke at roughly the
same time, heightening the crisis atmosphere.

European allies are
grappling with mounting disagreements over foreign policy and
growing irritated with Washington’s arrogant leadership

European leaders are clearly not pleased by Washington’s
increasingly confrontational policy toward Iran. When Secretary of
State Mike Pompeo made a surprise visit to Brussels in early May as
EU foreign ministers met to discuss the escalating crisis about the
Iran nuclear agreement, his
 was midpoint between cool
…read more

Source: OP-EDS