Updated: Oct 5, 2021
Memorial Day (originally Decoration Day) is a federal holiday in the United States that recognize people who died while serving for their country. The first Memorial Day began on May 1, 1865, in Charleston, South Carolina when former black slaves had a ceremony to honor 257 Union war dead. In May 1865, free blacks in Charleston reburied dead Union prisoners of war who had been buried in a mass shallow grave without coffins in a Confederate prison camp. They dug up the bodies and worked for 2 weeks to give them a proper burial and gratitude for fighting for their freedom by building a 10-foot fence and dug 257 individual graves. They held a parade of approximately 10,000 people, including almost 3000 black children as they marched, sang and celebrated.
On June 28, 1968, Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, which moved four holidays, including Memorial Day, from their traditional dates to a specified Monday in order to create a convenient three-day weekend. The law took effect at the federal level in 1971.
Memorial Day is a day of remembering the men and women who died while serving, whereas Veterans Day celebrates the service of all U.S. military veterans.
-The Aiken Foundation