Kemter tried to draw attention to an early memorial service on May 1, 1865 for Black Civil War soldiers in Charleston, South Carolina. Pulitzer Prize-winning historian David Blight wrote in The New York Times 2011: “Whites had largely left the city, but thousands of blacks, mostly ex-slaves, had stayed and held a series of memorial services to explain their sense of the importance of the war.” Blight described at least 257 Union prisoners held in conditions so miserable that they died of disease before being “rushed to a mass grave behind the stands” Washington Race Course and Jockey Club.
“After the Confederate evacuation of Charleston, black workers went to the site, duly buried the Union dead and built a high fence around the cemetery,” wrote Blight. “They whitewashed the fence and built an archway over an entrance with the words, ‘Martyrs of the Racetrack’ on it.” It’s a story few are taught in school and many think about it the first day of remembrance took place on May 5, 1868, when the Great Army of the Republic established Decoration Day to decorate the graves of those who died in the war.
But Kemter tried to give credit where it was long overdue. “It was a Charleston Washington Race Course and Jockey Club, now known as Hampton Park,” said the veteran. “The ceremony is believed to have included a parade of up to 10,000 people, including 3,000 African American school children, who sang the Union’s marching song ‘John Brown’s Body,'” added Kemter. “They had arms full of flowers and went to decorate the graves. Interesting that there would be a connection to Hudson with this song, John Brown. “
Then Kemter’s voice became less audible. Suchan, president of the Hudson American Legion Auxiliary, told the Akron Beacon Journal that either she or Garrison declined the audio because Kemter’s discussion of black history “was not relevant to our daily agenda,” with the “topic of the day” being: “In honor of Hudson veterans.” She also admitted in the newspaper: “We asked him to change his speech and he chose not to.”
Kemter told the Akron Beacon Journal that he finds it interesting that the American Legion would “censor” his speech and deny him the right to freedom of speech under the First Amendment. “This is not the same country that I fought for,” he said.
The Ohio American Legion said in its press release: “We are deeply saddened by this and stand in unity and solidarity with the black community and all peoples of race, color, religion, gender and gender, so that those who exclude such persons know that this behavior is in The. American Legion is unacceptable, in our homes, our hearts, our communities, private, public, or anywhere. We will continue to educate the value of diversity. Being different from one another makes us better – together. “
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