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A tragedy still unfolding has thrust “Mother” Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina into the spotlight, as well as its pastor, Rev. Clementa Pinckney. However, this historic congregation — one of the first AME congregations, has seen its share of hardship over the past two centuries, with faith and fortitude seeing it through the darkest days. Here are 10 facts you need to know about the church and its now deceased pastor, to understand Mother Emanuel’s unique place in American history:

1. In 1816, Black members of Charleston’s Methodist Episcopal Church withdrew over disputed burial grounds and under the leadership of Morris Brown, formed a circuit of 3 churches of people of color affiliated with the newly established African Methodist Episcopal Church. Emanuel’s congregation grew out of the Hampstead Church, located at Reid and Hanover Streets.

2. In 1822, the church was investigated for its involvement with a planned slave revolt. Denmark Vesey, one of the church’s founders, had organized plans for a major slave uprising in Charleston. The plot was foiled by an informant, and Vesey was hanged, along with 36 enslaved people.

3. As a result of the revolt plot, Emanuel AME Church was burned, and laws were passed in a number of southern states restricting the movement of Black people.

4. Parishioners rebuilt the church after the fire and worshipped there until 1834, when South Carolina outlawed all-Black churches.

5. The congregation had to continue worshipping underground until 1865, when the church was formally reorganized. It was then that the name “Emanuel” (meaning “God is with us”) was adopted.

6. Richard Harvey Cain, who served South Carolina as a Republican representative to Congress from 1873–1875 and 1877–1879, led Emanuel after the Civil War. During his tenure, the church was “one of the strongest political organizations in the state.”

7. Today, Emanuel AME is the oldest church of its kind in the South.

8. It houses the oldest Black congregation south of Baltimore.

9. The current church building is a Gothic Revival-style structure built in 1891.

10. The most recent pastor was Clementa C. Pinckney, a Democratic state senator in South Carolina. Born July 30, 1973 in Beaufort, SC, he served in the state senate since 2000, and before that, he served in the state house of representatives. He leaves behind wife Jennifer Benjamin and two children named Eliana and Malana.

Pickney was among the casualties of last night’s mass shooting at Mother Emanuel AME.

SOURCES:

USA Today

U.S. House of Representatives: History, Art and Archives

National Park Service: Charleston Historic, Religious and Community Buildings

Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church: “Mother Emanuel” A.M.E. Church History

Gettysburg College: The Vesey Revolt

On Borrowed Ground: Free African-American life in Charleston, South Carolina 1810-61

South Carolina Statehouse

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10 Facts About Historic Mother Emanuel AME Church & Its Pastor Clementa Pinckney  was originally published on newsone.com

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