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A Litany for the Mass Dead: Reflections on Memorial Day and the Tulsa Race Massacre

  "We return. We return from fighting. We return fighting." —W.E.B. DuBois The first person to die for America was a black man. Crispus Attucks , an escaped slave, was shot and killed by the British during the Boston Massacre of 1770. He was the first to die for what would become the war for American independence.  The liberty won then would not be granted to his race for nearly another hundred years. And then only after another brutal and horrific war. There have been disputes as to where the very first Memorial day was observed, but it now seems that the very first was held in 1865 in Charleston, South Carolina . Where newly freed slaves and veterans of an all black Union battalion decorated the graves of the Northern soldiers who had died in battle. A parade was held where children sang “John Brown’s Body.” This was all largely forgotten, which is to say ignored, by history until recently.  56 years after that first Memorial day, in a section of Tulsa, Oklahoma called Gree

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