Monday, May 25, 2009

An Extra Wreath for Obama on Memorial Day

. Monday, May 25, 2009

ARLINGTON, Va. — President Obama observed Memorial Day on Monday just as his predecessors have: by placing a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier here. But Mr. Obama added a new twist: he sent a second wreath to a memorial honoring African-Americans who fought in the Civil War. President Obama took part in a wreath laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia. Presidents since Warren G. Harding have marked Memorial Day by visiting Arlington National Cemetery, where white rows of tombstones mark more than seven generations of America’s war dead. But with the nation’s first African-American president in office, a controversy erupted over Mr. Obama’s appearance this year.

Last week, a group of university professors petitioned the White House to end a longstanding practice of sending a wreath to a monument to Confederate soldiers on the cemetery grounds. Mr. Obama continued that tradition but started another, the White House said, by sending a second wreath across the Potomac River to the historically black neighborhood in Washington where the African-American Civil War Memorial commemorates more than 200,000 blacks who fought for the North in the Civil War.