Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Corporate gatekeepers and big tech monopolists are making it more difficult than ever for independent media to survive. Please chip in today.

Retired Army Lt. Col. Barnard Kemter speaking at a Memorial Day event in Hudson, Ohio.

Retired Army Lt. Col. Barnard Kemter attempted to share the history of Memorial Day at an event in Hudson, Ohio on Monday, noting that freed black slaves played a key role in marking the holiday after the Civil War. Organizers cut his mic, saying Kemter's discussion of Black history was "not relevant." (Photo: screenshot)

Organizers Cut Veteran's Microphone for Speaking About Black History at Memorial Day Event

Retired Lt. Col. Barnard Kemter is accusing organizers with the American Legion in Hudson, Ohio of censorship. 

Julia Conley

A 77-year-old veteran Army medic accused organizers of an American Legion Memorial Day event of censoring him on Wednesday, days after his microphone was cut as he attempted to share how the holiday was originally celebrated by Black people who had been enslaved. 

Retired Lt. Col. Barnard Kemter was invited to serve as the keynote speaker at an event hosted by the Hudson American Legion Auxiliary in Hudson, Ohio on Monday, and decided to focus on the holiday's origins in Charleston, South Carolina. 

Kemter sent his planned remarks to organizers ahead of the gathering of 300 people and was asked by the American Legion Auxiliary to "modify" the speech—but since he had not originally been told of any topics that were off-limits, Kemter kept the details about Black history in after consulting with a town official in Hudson about the matter.

"The holiday is rooted in a moving ceremony that was conducted by freed slaves on May 1, 1865 at the tattered remains of a Confederate prisoner of war camp," Kemter told the audience. "The ceremony is believed to have included a parade of as many as 10,000 people, including 3,000 African American schoolchildren singing the Union marching song, 'John Brown's Body.' They were carrying armfuls of flowers and went to decorate at the graves."

Moments after Kemter mentioned the holiday's connection to Black history, his microphone was cut. He assumed the event was experiencing technical difficulties and continued, but Hudson American Legion Auxiliary president Cindy Suchan later told the Akron Beacon Journal that Kemter had been cut off intentionally. 

The history of the holiday "was not relevant to our program for the day," Suchan said. 

Kemter told the Washington Post that he received numerous compliments on his remarks from people who appreciated learning about the historical context of Memorial Day.

"I was very disappointed that someone would choose to censor my speech," Kemter told the newspaper.

Rep. Casey Weinstein (D-Ohio), who represents Hudson and the surrounding area in Congress, denounced the local American Legion auxiliary's action as "an embarrassment."

"I'm sick of the thought police trying to limit and sanitize discussion our real, raw, history," Weinstein added.

Weinstein's criticism was echoed on Twitter, with some sarcastically comparing the American Legion's treatment of Kemter to so-called "left-wing cancel culture" and "political correctness"—frequent targets of the right wing.

 

The Ohio American Legion said Thursday it was investigating the incident and taking Kemter's allegations of censorship seriously.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Earth's Atmospheric CO2 Hasn't Been This High In Millions of Years

"Either we drive the fossil fuel industry into extinction—or the human race."

Kenny Stancil ·


'A Shameful Distinction': US Ranked World's Biggest Perpetrator of Financial Secrecy

"That isn't a prize the U.S. wants to claim for itself," said one critic.

Jake Johnson ·


Progressives Vow to Fight as DeSantis Signs Bill Banning Protests at Florida Homes

"H.B. 1571 builds on the unconstitutional foundations of the anti-protest bill last year," said one activist, "and only reaffirms our will to make sure our voices are heard in order to create a brighter future for the people of our state."

Brett Wilkins ·


AIPAC's Super PAC Spends Millions to Defeat Summer Lee, Other Progressives

Groups tied to the powerful anti-Palestinian rights lobby have run ads attacking Lee in Pennsylvania and former Bernie Sanders organizer Nida Allam in North Carolina.

Julia Conley ·


Kremlin Says Russia Now Considers US, European Allies 'Hostile States'

"What they are doing is war," declared Dmitry Peskov, a spokesperson for Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Jake Johnson ·

Common Dreams Logo