Veteran's mic muted as he told of Black people's role in Memorial Day origin

The American Legion Department of Ohio is investigating a Memorial Day incident in which a veteran’s microphone was muted as he spoke about the role former slaves played in the founding of Memorial Day.

According to a report by the Akron Beacon Journal, a ceremony organizer turned off the microphone for roughly two minutes of retired Army Lt. Col. Barnard Kemter’s keynote address.

The portion that was muted highlighted former slaves in Charleston, South Carolina who dug up remains of 200 Union soldiers to give them a proper burial shortly after the Civil War ended. (See the 47-minute mark of the video below.)

Cindy Suchan, president of the Hudson American Legion Auxiliary and chair of the Memorial Day parade committee told the Beacon Journal organizers wanted that part excluded because the "theme of the day was honoring Hudson veterans" and that it wasn’t relevant to the program.

Before the speech was given, organizers asked Kemter to remove a portion of his speech, Suchan said. She didn’t say which part she wanted to be edited out, but she confirmed the microphone was muted when Kemter reached the portion she wanted to be excluded.

Suchan said either she or fellow ceremony official Jim Garrison turned down the audio, but she declined to specify which one of them did it.


Flags are seen by military headstones at Los Angeles National Cemetery on Memorial Day, in Los Angeles, California on May 31, 2021. (Photo by CHRIS DELMAS/AFP via Getty Images)

When word of what happened reached the American Legion, National Commander James W. Oxford put out a statement announcing an investigation and firmly condemning the censorship.

"The Ohio American Legion assures us that they are fully investigating this incident. Regardless of the investigation’s outcome, the national headquarters is very clear that The American Legion deplores racism and reveres the Constitution," Oxford said.

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Oxford offered praise to Kemter, who continued to deliver his speech without the aid of a microphone.

"We salute LTC Kemter’s service and his moving remarks about the history of Memorial Day and the important role played by Black Americans in honoring our fallen heroes," Oxford said. "We regret any actions taken that detracts from this important message." 

Kemter told local media some of the attendees came up to him afterward and complimented him on the speech, thanking him for highlighting the history behind Memorial Day.

This story was reported from Atlanta.