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Drew Richardson tires to looks through an American flag February 20, 2005 during a homecoming celebration for 150 soldiers from the Army's 3rd Infantry Division, 293rd Military Police at Fort Stewart, Georgia.
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Understanding How African-Americans Created The Rich Traditions Of Memorial Day

Education doesn't stop in the classroom. Over the years, we've had to unlearn many of America's historical traits and discover just how much African American, Latinx, and Indigenous Peoples have done for the foundation of the country. Another aspect of America's fabric includes how freed black women, men and children created Memorial Day.

The story kicks off during the days of the Civil War in 1865 when Union and Confederate soldiers fought in Charleston, South Carolina. Just two years earlier, free and escaped slaves were allowed to enlist in the army with a reported 179,000 taking part. During the most savage parts of the Civil War, hundreds of members of the Union were left for dead at Washington Race Course with the track being converted into a prison camp. As many fled the state (including Confederate soldiers), former slaves remained.

Post and Courier columnist Brian Hicks wrote in 2009 that those who died at the racecourse were buried in mass graves but the former slaves (who called themselves “Patriotic Association of Colored Men”) dug up the bodies and created shallow graves for the soldiers in Hampton Park. The group reportedly created a 10-foot fence and dug 257 graves.

The effort took two weeks but the funeral proved to be a touching tribute as a documented 2,800 black school children sang songs like "John Brown's Body" and “The Star-Spangled Banner” with sermons delivered by black preachers on May 1, 1865.

David Blight, an American history professor at Yale University (Race and Reunion) and author Robert Rosen (Confederate Charleston) note that the event was known as “Martyrs of the Race Course” and appeared in the paper, Charleston Daily Courier, the next day.

“What’s interesting to me is how the memory of this got lost,” Blight said. “It is, in effect, the first Memorial Day and it was primarily led by former slaves in Charleston.”

It's been said that white people confused the ceremony for a celebration for the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 (insert eye roll) and a year later, Waterloo, New York celebrated the so-called first Decoration Day, mimicking the same traditions done in Charleston.

In April 1866, Confederate Memorial Day took place with both holidays doing the same traditions. The Grand Army of the Republic (GAR), an organization for Union veterans, declared May 5, 1868, Decoration Day but Union Maj. Gen. John A. Logan decided Decoration Day should take place later in the month (May 30). Eventually, the holidays merged and became Memorial Day to be celebrated on last Monday of May.

The complicated role of black people in American wars continued as Chuck Hobbs of the Hobbservation Point noted in the 2017 article, Remembering when Black soldiers were lynched en masse by the Army during World War I. Hobbs shared how General John J. Pershing, commander of the American Expeditionary Forces, enforced a divide between black and white soldiers, stating, “we must not eat with them, must not shake hands with them, seek to talk to them or to meet with them outside the requirements of military service. We must not commend too highly these troops, especially in front of White Americans.” Black soldiers were lynched for petty violations and at times, due to sheer racism.

At times it's hard to enjoy a holiday that hasn't honored all of us, but historians continue to uncover unsung heroes nearly every day. Films like Glory have highlighted black soldiers and reenactments of their efforts continue around the country.

Read more about Memorial Day's history here and feel free to revisit The Root's breakdown of the holiday below.

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Amber Guyger Appeals Murder Conviction In Botham Jean Case

Former Dallas police officer Amber Guyger has appealed her murder conviction this week in an effort to receive a shorter sentence, the Star-Telegram reported on Friday (Aug. 7). Guyger is currently serving a 10-year-sentence for fatally shooting Botham Jean inside his apartment in 2018.

Attorneys for Guyger claim that there was insufficient evidence to warrant a conviction. The legal documents reportedly want the murder conviction tossed, or changed to criminally negligent homicide.

“I feel like she received a slap on the wrist for taking my brother’s life,” Botham Jean’s sister Allis Findley. “This tells me that she feels like she didn’t do anything wrong. She did not step on my brother’s toe. She took his life.”

Guyger was found guilty on Oct. 1. She maintains that she entered Jean’s apartment believing that it was her own. Guyger testified that she shot Jean believing that he was an intruder.

“She should have received life, so she should take her 10 years in prison and shut up,” added Findley. “If the court was to do this it would prove that, yes, there is systematic racism and white privilege does prevail over Black life. I’m hoping this appeal gets thrown out and her conviction holds. I’m hoping they overturn the 10 years and give her life instead.”

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Oprah Winfrey Puts Up 26 Billboards Demanding Justice For Breonna Taylor

Oprah Winfrey and the team at O, The Oprah Magazine, erected 26 billboards demanding the arrest of the cops who killed Breonna Taylor. The billboards went up all around Louisville, Kentucky, on Thursday (Aug. 6).

“Demand that the police involved in killing Breonna Taylor be arrested an charged,” the billboards reads. The billboard encourages people to visit UntilFreedom.com (the organization co-founded by Tamika D. Mallory, Mysonne Linen, Angela Pintom and Linda Sarsoir) and includes a quote from Oprah, “If you turn a blind eye to racism, you become an accomplice to it.”

🚨Billboard Alert🚨

26 billboards - for every year of life of #BreonnaTaylor erected in Louisville, KY.

Kentucky will not forget her name. We will get justice for Breonna. pic.twitter.com/rOM2bhVdAy

— untilfreedom (@untilfreedom) August 6, 2020

A drawing of Taylor also covers the Sept. 2020 edition of O Magazine, marking the first time that Winfrey wasn’t the publication’s covergirl. Winfrey decided to use the magazine’s 20th anniversary cover to amplify Taylor’s story.

On March 13, Taylor, a 26-year-old EMT, was shot to death by former and current Louisville police officers Jonathon Mattingly, Brett Hankison and Myles Cosgrove. None of them have been charged in her murder.

“She was just like me. She was just like you,” Winfrey wrote on Instagram. “And like everyone who dies unexpectedly, she had plans. Plans for a future filled with responsibility and work and friends and laughter. I think about Breonna Taylor often.

“The September issue honors her life and the life of every other Black woman whose life has been taken too soon.”

See the cover below.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

Breonna Taylor. She was just like me. She was just like you. And like everyone who dies unexpectedly, she had plans. Plans for a future filled with responsibility and work and friends and laughter. I think about Breonna Taylor often. Imagine if three unidentified men burst into your home while you were sleeping. And your partner fired a gun to protect you. And then mayhem. What I know for sure: We can’t be silent. We have to use whatever megaphone we have to cry for justice. And that is why Breonna Taylor is on the cover of @oprahmagazine. The September issue honors her life and the life of every other Black woman whose life has been taken too soon. Head to OprahMag.com for more—and thank you to @alexis_art, a 24-year-old digital artist, who captured the essence of Breonna. The issue will be available wherever you buy or download magazines on 8/11.

A post shared by Oprah (@oprah) on Jul 30, 2020 at 5:32am PDT

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Watch The Moment T.I. Learns He’s Going To Be A Grandfather

Congratulations are in order for T.I.’s stepdaughter, Zonnique. The singer is expecting her first child with boyfriend and rapper, Bandhunta Izzy (a.k.a Isreal James).

Zonnique, who will be welcoming a daughter with Izzy, surprised Tip with the baby news during an episode of her Fox Soul show The Mix on Wednesday (Aug. 6).

Needless to say, Tip was shocked. So much so, that it took him a minute to actually process the announcement, even after his wife, Tiny, confirmed that they weren’t pranking him.

Zonnique broke the pregnancy news to PEOPLE earlier in the week, and opened up about the drawbacks of being pregnant during a pandemic.  “It really sucks being pregnant during the coronavirus,” she admitted. “At first, I'm like, 'This is the perfect time, like everybody is locked in. I don't have to worry about going out. So if I want to hide it for however long, I can hide.'

“But when it comes to going to doctor's appointments, I go to all of them by myself. I ask every single time, 'Can I bring my boyfriend?' And they're like, 'No, only you can come.' That's been the worst part," she added.

“I'm hoping by the time I'm ready to have the baby it will be over with. But I'm sure it won't be, so I'll be in there with one person, most likely. I'm just trying not to get my hopes too high anymore.”

Peep the video below to see Tip's hilarious reaction to learning that he's going to be a grandfather.

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