On a day like today, now five years ago, June 17, 2015, shortly after nine in the evening, the Charleston Police Department began receiving emergency calls of a shooting at Emanuel AME Church, one of the oldest black churches in the United States, and a center for civil rights. An hour earlier Dylann Roof had entered Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church through a side door where he participated in the Bible study conducted that evening.
After other participants began praying, Dylann Roof stood up, and aimed a gun at 87-year-old Susie Jackson. Jackson's nephew, 26-year-old Tywanza Sanders, tried to talk Dylann Roof down and asked him why he was attacking churchgoers. He replied: "I have to do it. You rape our women and you're taking over our country. And you have to go." Dylann Roof fired at the nine victims, the
Emanuel Nine, the clergy and church members who were murdered while Roof shouted racial epithets "Y'all want something to pray about? I'll give you something to pray about."
Dot Scott, president of the local branch of the NAACP, said she had heard from victims' relatives that the shooter spared one woman (Polly Shepard), saying that she could tell other people what happened. He asked, "Did I shoot you?" She replied, "No." Then, he said, "Good, 'cause we need someone to survive, because I'm gonna shoot myself, and you'll be the only survivor." Dylann Roof left the church after making another racially inflammatory statement over the victims' bodies. The entire shooting lasted for approximately six minutes.
The Emanuel Nine Memorial is dedicated to reversing the spread of hate with a message of unyielding love and forgiveness. (Photo curtesy of Emanuel AME Church)
Some have draw similarities between the massacre at Emanuel AME and the 1963 16th Street Baptist Church bombing of a politically active African-American church in Birmingham, Alabama, where the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) killed four black girls and injured fourteen others, during the civil rights movement. An attack which generated great support for federal civil rights legislation.
And so it is today, that In honor of Emanuel's Nine, a special short series of videos were produced by The I.M.F.C. in their tribute to draw attention to the need to protect all houses of worship from violence and discrimination. We present here the complete compilation to our readers while each of the vignettes can be found in our social media channels @TheIMFCsocial.
Founded in 1816, this is the oldest African Methodist Episcopal Church in the South, often referred to as "Mother Emanuel". The AME Church was founded in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1814.
Even in the midst of COVID-19 the need to share the message of love for our neighbors is needed now more than ever.
The Emanuel Nine, were all African-American members of the AME Church: - Clementa C. Pinckney (41) – the church's pastor and a South Carolina state senator.
- Cynthia Marie Graham Hurd (54) – a Bible study member and manager for the Charleston County Public Library system; sister of former state senator Malcolm Graham.
- Susie Jackson (87) – a Bible study and church choir member. She was the oldest victim of the shooting.
- Ethel Lee Lance (70) – the church's sexton.
- Depayne Middleton-Doctor (49) – a pastor who was also employed as a school administrator and admissions coordinator at Southern Wesleyan University.
- Tywanza Sanders (26) – a Bible study member; grandnephew of victim Susie Jackson. He was the youngest victim.
- Daniel L. Simmons (74) – a pastor who also served at Greater Zion AME Church in Awendaw.
- Sharonda Coleman-Singleton (45) – a pastor; also a speech therapist and track coach at Goose Creek High School; mother of MLB prospect Chris Singleton.
Myra Thompson (59) – a Bible study teacher.
"Five years ago my mom’s life was taken away from us by a man that wanted to start a race war. - Five years later my gift to my mom and to the world is my first children’s book teaching our youth to love others, no matter their race, religion, or skin color. - June 17th, 2020..." —CHRIS SINGLETON