Home » Memorial Day Message to the Residents of Collegeville From Mayor Aidsand Wright-Riggins

Memorial Day Message to the Residents of Collegeville From Mayor Aidsand Wright-Riggins


May 30, 2022

Dear Citizens and Friends of Collegeville,

I am humbled to commemorate this Memorial Day with you as the Mayor of Collegeville,
Borough.

As Americans, we pause to honor veterans of all wars today. In that regard, I personally honor
my grandfather, Malachi Stokes who served in the Great War; my father, Aidsand F. Riggins Jr.
and uncle, Washington Riggins who fought in World War II; my uncles, Melvin Stokes and
Charles Stokes who served in the Korean and Vietnam Wars; and my nephew, Dane Chase
who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Most of us know that the origins of Memorial Day are in America’s deadliest conflagration, the
Civil War. About 620,000 soldiers died then, most actually from disease. While many states
claim to be the birthplace of Memorial Day, I am drawn and moved by a particular story by
historian and Pulitzer Prize winner David Blight who raised awareness of the actions of
formerly enslaved persons to honor Union Soldiers in Charleston South Carolina.

According to Blight’s 2001 book Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American
Memory, a commemoration organized by freed enslaved persons and some white
missionaries took place on May 1, 1865, in Charleston, S.C., at a former planters’
racetrack where Confederates held captured Union soldiers during the last year of the
war. At least 257 prisoners died, many of disease, and were buried in unmarked graves,
so Black residents of Charleston decided to give them a proper burial. This happened at
a Clubhouse on a racecourse where Union soldiers were held prisoner.

In the approximately 10 days leading up to the event, roughly two dozen African
American Charlestonians reorganized the graves into rows and built a 10-foot-tall white
fence around them. An archway overhead spelled out “Martyrs of the Racecourse” in
black letters. For over 400 years in this country, African Americans have been proudly
singing, “I Too Sing America” even when so many ignore or squelch their voices.
Today, I salute and honor all Martyrs of the Racecourse and pray for the day when
humanity studies war no more.

Memorial Day Message to the Residents of Collegeville
From Mayor Aidsand Wright-Riggins

Dr. Aidsand F. Wright-Riggins
Mayor, Collegeville Borough

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