Victims assassinated at Mother Emanuel were beloved by family and community
Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church has a rich history. It’s the oldest AME church in the South. It opened in 1818 under the leadership of the late Bishop Morris Brown, the second bishop of the AME Church and the namesake of Morris Brown College, an HBCU. Brown, under the guidance of AME Church founder Richard Allen, left a predominantly white and racially segregated Methodist Church in Charleston, SC in protest against discrimination. Members and many spectators around the world never imagined it would be the site of the largest church massacre and make headlines since the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s mother (1974) at the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta and the 1965 16th Street Baptist Church bombing where four little Black girls were killed.
Mother Emanuel, as Emanuel AME Church is referenced due to its historical legacy, has a storied past. It was burned down in the early 1800s. Members rebuilt it and worshipped there until 1834, when the state of South Carolina banned all African American churches. The current church where the massacre took place was built in 1891.
Its current senior pastor, Clementa Carlos Pinckney, was a Democratic member of the South Carolina Senate. While leading a Bible study and prayer meeting within the church, he was shot and killed along with eight of his members by a confirmed white supremacist who dropped out of high school in the 9th grade and was looking to “kill black people.”
Ministers and parishioners, the nine martyrs of what has become known as the “Charleston Church Massacre,” are honored here. The victims are three men and six women, ages 26-87.