This Month in History: May


OS2 John Bouvia

Flags line the driveway and adorn each grave at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, also known as the Punchbowl, in observance of Memorial Day.

Taelyr Chamberlain, Reporter

May is a spring month of pride, success, and good will leading into the summer months ahead.

May 4:

May 4 is used to celebrate the Star Wars media franchise created by filmmaker George Lucas. Lucas is considered to be one of the most significant and successful figures of the 20th-century New Hollywood movement. At a young age, Lucas was intrigued by comics and science fiction. He started his cinematography career at Modesto Junior College, then transferred to the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts. Lucas and several other future successful filmmakers become a clique of film students known as The Dirty Dozen. During his early film career, Lucas created his own company, Lucasfilm Ltd and released the first Star Wars film. This introduced the film industry to a new, modern type of filmmaking, including special effects, the motion-control camera system, and establishing a marketplace of space science fiction as a genre. 

May 5, 1862:

The Battle of Puebla, also known as Cinco de Mayo, occurred on May 5, 1862. The holiday was established to honor the Mexican military’s victory over Napoleon III’s French forces. Tensions heightened in 1861 when Mexico declared a temporary moratorium over repayment of foreign debts. English, Spanish, and French troops invaded the country but eventually withdrew by April 1862. However, the French troops stayed. The local mestizo and Zapotec defeated the French troops. Although the French were not completely driven out for another five years, the victory at Puebla became a symbol of Mexican resistance to foreign domination. 

May 6, 2023:

The Kentucky Derby is among one of the most popular American sporting events, dating back to 1875. It is the oldest continuously running sports event in the nation. The Derby takes place annually on the first Saturday in May. Meriwether Lewis Clark Jr., the grandson of William Clark of the Lewis and Clark expedition, organized the Louisville Jockey Club to raise money to build a quality racing facility outside the city. The track became known as Churchill Downs, named after John and Henry Churchill who provided the land for the racetrack. The first Derby took place on May 17, 1875 and attracted a crowd of about 10,000 people and 15 three-year-old horses. Traditions of the Kentucky Derby include bright, flashy headpieces, called fascinators, the Garland of Roses, and mint juleps. 

May 29, 2023:

Memorial Day is observed annually on the last Monday of May, honoring the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military. By the late 1860s following the Civil War, many Americans began decorating the graves of fallen soldiers and holding springtime tributes. Some of the earliest Memorial Day traditions was a gathering held by a group of formerly enslaved people in Charleston, South Carolina less than a month after the Confederacy surrendered in 1865. Originally called Decoration Day, the holiday was organized by General John A. Logan. On the first Decoration Day, General James Garfield made a speech at Arlington National Cemetery. There were about 5,000 participants who decorated the graves of 20,000 Civil War soldiers buried there. Memorial Day was declared a holiday in 1966 by the federal government in Waterloo, New York, the official birthplace of Memorial Day.