The audio was turned off on a veteran’s microphone at a Memorial Day event in Ohio after he discussed the role that Black people played in the holiday’s start.
According to the Akron Beacon Journal, on Monday (May 31), retired Army Lt. Col. Barnard Kemter began to deliver a speech during an event to commemorate the holiday. During his remarks, he discussed the history of Memorial Day, including old news articles and notes that proved that a group of freed Black people were the first to establish the holiday.
“In recent years, the origins of how and where ‘Decoration Day’ began has sparked lively debate amongst historians,” Kemter said during his address.
“However, Yale historian David Blight, asserting the holiday is rooted in a moving ceremony, [said it] was conducted by freed slaves on May 1, 1865, at the tattered remains of a Confederate prisoner of war camp,” he continued. “It was a Charleston Washington Race Course and Jockey Club today known as Hampton Park.”
“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,’” the veteran said. “They were carrying armfuls of flowers and went to decorate at the graves.”
A few moments later, the audio for Kemter’s mic was turned off. Cindy Suchan, an organizer of the event, confirmed to the Journal that she or Jim Garrison, another organizer, cut the sound, but she wouldn’t confirm who did it. She said that his mic was cut because that portion of his speech “was not relevant to our program for the day” and that the “theme of the day was honoring Hudson veterans.”
Suchan also said that she told the veteran to remove parts of his address before the event started. Kemter said that an organizer emailed him days prior to the Memorial Day event asking that he remove the part about the role Black people played in starting the holiday.
Check out Kemter’s speech below. His mic was cut around the 50:35 mark.