"It was on Decoration Day, in a G. A. R. uniform, in the middle of the parade."
Decoration Day parade
Public DomainDecoration Day parade - Credit: Robert N. Dennis

Decoration Day originated amongst black and northern white citizens to honour the Union soldiers who had died during the Civil War (see note for page 89). Small cities and towns across the country hosted large military-style parades with marching bands and army vehicles. Decoration Day was officially renamed Memorial Day in 1967, with both Union and Confederate casualties being mourned.

 

27th US Colored Troops banner
Public Domain27th US Colored Troops banner - Credit: David Bustill Bowser

The Great Army of the Republic was a fraternal body composed of those who had fought on the side of the Union during the Civil War. In addition to around 2,000,000 white Americans, foreign nationals and immigrants, some 210,000 African American soldiers fought against the Confederate states. Organized as the United States Colored Troops, they comprised both northern freedmen and southern ex-slaves. The efforts of the USCT did much to enhance recognition of African American citizens in the North.