Home > Essays > We’re Not a Racist Country… And We Want Our Kids to Learn the Facts… But We DON’T Want Them to Know the Story Behind the Founding of Memorial Day

We’re Not a Racist Country… And We Want Our Kids to Learn the Facts… But We DON’T Want Them to Know the Story Behind the Founding of Memorial Day

Last week on Memorial Day, retired Army Lt. Col. Barnard Kemter was the keynote speaker at a Memorial Day ceremony hosted by the Hudson American Legion Lee-Bishop Post 464 on Monday in Hudson, Ohio. But, as People Magazine reporter Jason Hahn reported, his speech was not heard by everyone:

…shortly after he began his 11-minute speech, Kemter’s microphone stopped working as he discussed the history of Memorial Day and the freed Black enslaved people who helped commemorate the holiday following the Union’s triumph over the Confederacy.

“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,'” Kemter said in his speech. “They were carrying armfuls of flowers and went to decorate at the graves.”

At first, Kemter thought the problem with the microphone was a technical one… I mean, outdoor microphones are often problematic. But that wasn’t the case at all!

As the (Akron) Beacon Journal reported, the event’s organizers admitted they had turned off Kemter’s microphone on purpose since the portion of his speech about Black history was “not relevant for the program.”

“We asked him to modify his speech, and he chose not to do that,” Cindy Suchan, president of the Hudson American Legion Auxiliary, said in comments made to the Beacon Journal.

The historic roots of Memorial Day were “…not relevant for the program” ON Memorial Day? Really???

Kemter told the Washington Post he had hoped the story would shine a light on an important moment of history. His speech was well-received by many of the 300 in attendance, he said.

“Throughout history, there has been a lot of claims about who actually performed the first Memorial Day service,” Kemter explained. “With this speech, I chose to educate people as to the origin of Memorial Day and why we were celebrating it.

It’s too bad for Lt. Col. Kempter that the roots of the holiday offended some of the organizers…. and I am sure they will claim that race played no role in the decision and that systemic racism doesn’t exist in Hudson, Ohio.

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