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Monday, May 30, 2016

Memorial Day at BAM in 1886

Courtesy: BAM Hamm Archives
For going on four decades, the BAM community has equated Memorial Day weekend not only with remembering those who have served our country, but also with the DanceAfrica Festival. But an item from BAM Hamm Archives reminds us of the organization's longstanding civic commitment.

This May 31, 1886 handbill details "exercises" at a Decoration Day program. Decoration Day was begun in 1868 by the Grand Army of the Republic, a veteran's group, to decorate the graves of soldiers lost in the Civil War. It became Memorial Day in the early 20th century.

The Grand Army of the Republic oversaw the event at the Academy. The veteran's group comprised soldiers who fought in the Civil War, primarily for the Union. In fact, Brooklyn's Grand Army Plaza was named to commemorate this organization.

The Reverend Henry Ward Beecher presided at the 1886 gathering (to which admission cost 50 cents). This brother of Harriet Beecher Stowe was a clergyman and abolitionist, and a prominent speaker sent abroad by President Abraham Lincoln to advocate on behalf of the Unionist cause. He is buried in Green-Wood Cemetery.

The Decoration Day slate included patriotic music with audience members joining on the choruses, as well as poems and prayers. While this event took place at the Academy's first hall, on Montague Street, it serves to remind us of the long, rich history that BAM occupies in the city and in America.

1 comment:

  1. Indeed a nice article to read. Thanks for sharing it here. We are making plans for a fun party on our parent’s 50th anniversary. Will love to book best Chicago venues for our event. Hoping to find one in budget soon.


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