According to oral history this holiday existed predating the Civil War. It goes all the back to Colonial times. It was not about military remembrance. It was the day one remembered deceased relatives as a whole not military. Veteran Day is reserved for that.
But in 1971 congress changed the meaning to what we know today. It was once the day the family cleaned off and decorated the graves of their loved ones. Military served or not.
Why it’s important in the African American community has nothing to do with veterans. Nor the American flags. It was the only day some of the more lenient plantations allowed their slaves this day off to attend their loved ones burial spot. This is how historians know the location of many slave cemeteries, the final resting place of many slaves that would have otherwise been lost. Markers were not added to the graves until after the Civil War. The marker was usual a tree or bush or arrangement of stones.
This is how we are able to find graves in the original 13 colonies dating back to the 1600’s and 1700’s. There was an annual day of maintaining them and remembering the dead.
By changing the meaning of the holiday Congress unconsciously erased much of the original history as to why the day was established to begin with. This is why many older African Americans, especially those in rural areas will not cook out on this day. They consider it a dishonor to those who gave their lives as the full measurement in a situation they had no control over. The oral history was passed onto them that it was a day of remembrance of their relatives who had passed on while still in bondage.
In many parts of the country this day still isn’t about barbecuing and family fun. It’s about remembrance of all who have passed on. Like I said military or not. The military aspect of this day wasn’t added until after the Battle of Gettysburg.
The original decorations were not flags. It was flowers. When the honorary day was started the United States didn’t exist. It had no flags. Betsy Ross hadn’t made and sewn the “Spirit of 76”. She wasn’t born yet. The May flowers meant Resurrection to a better life.
Originally known as Decoration Day, it originated in the years following the Civil War and became an official federal holiday in 1971.
In 1868, Commander in Chief John A. Logan of the grand Army of the Republic issued what was called General Order Number 11, designating May 30 as a memorial day.
In 1971, Memorial Day was declared a national holiday by an act of Congress, though it is still often called Decoration Day. It was then also placed on the last Monday in May, as were some other federal holidays.