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Memorial Day procession to Fredericksburg National Cemetery will re-create early post-Civil War events led by African-Americans to honor Union dead
An 1874 photo shows the grave of 1st Lt. Warrenton
F. THEODORE MILLER /JERRY AND LOUISE BRENT COLLECTION
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Joseph Orton Kerbey, a Union veteran, wrote in an 1890 book of meeting beforehand at town hall with Capt. Dan Lee, a nephew of Robert E. Lee who led the Mathew Fontaine Maury Camp of Confederate veterans, and Maj. Andrew Birdsall, superintendent of the National Cemetery.
Lee offered the camp's help in decorating the Federal soldiers' graves.
Lee said "their services were tendered gladly to this end; though they preferred not to be associated with the mob of colored people, who had been in the habit of making a picnic out of the day," Kerbey wrote.
Kerbey thanked his former foes, but said he had no authority to act for the Grand Army of the Republic. (He was a member of the GAR's Kit Carson Post in Washington, D.C.)
Birdsall accepted the offer, Kerbey recorded.
Pfanz said 1890 was the last National Cemetery event in which the black community participated. African-Americans held a separate procession and ceremony, decorating soldiers' graves.
That gradual pattern was repeated in communities across the South, Yale University historian David Blight writes in his book "Race and Reunion." Blacks initially took leading roles in Memorial Day ceremonies, honoring the Union dead and expressing their newfound liberties as citizens.
But reconciliation between North and South came at a price--the end of black participation in such high-profile events, Blight and Pfanz said.
The institution of postwar Black Codes and the long Jim Crow era that followed further proscribed African-Americans' rights and their role in public life.More on Past is Prologue blog: bit.ly/pip57
Clint Schemmer: 540/368-5029
WHAT: Memorial Day procession, ending at Fredericksburg National Cemetery in time for its noon exercises. The Rev. Lawrence A. Davies, the recently retired pastor of Shiloh Baptist Church, will deliver the keynote address.WHEN: 10:30 a.m. Monday WHERE: Starts at Riverfront Park on Sophia Street, then up Charlotte Street, to the National Cemetery at Sunken Road and Lafayette Boulevard. DETAILS: Procession and Memorial Day program at the National Cemetery are free, and the public is invited. The walk's route is about one mile long. Historian-led tours of Sunken Road after the cemetery program. For those with mobility issues, buses will be available at Riverfront Park. MORE INFO: 540/373-6122