Nine people were murdered in the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina last night. In what police are describing as a hate crime the victims were attending a prayer meeting when the gunman who was also at the prayer meeting started shooting.
Among the nine victims was the pastor of the church, Reverend Clementa Pinckney who was also a South Carolina state Senator.
According to new sources there were thirteen people inside the church when the shooting happened including the shooter.
The FBI has named Dylann Roof, 21, of Columbia, South Carolina as the suspected killer of nine people at a black church in Charleston. Roof was previously arrested on April 26 for a tresspassing arrest and was awaiting moderation.
The history of of Emanuel AME Church dates back to the late 1700’s.
The congregation first formed in 1791, a coalition of free blacks and slaves. At first they were members of Charleston’s Methodist Episcopal Church. But in 1816, they left their white counterparts in a dispute over burial grounds.
At the time, the church was 1,400 members strong. They rallied behind the leadership of a pastor named Morris Brown and organized under the banner of the African Methodist Episcopal Church.
The early years of the congregation were fraught with trials as Brown and other ministers of the church were jailed for violating laws that prohibited slaves and free blacks from gathering without white supervision.
In 1822, the church was burned to the ground, after plans for a slave revolt were exposed.
Denmark Vesey, a carpenter who brought himself out of slavery, was the architect. Since he was one of the founders of the congregation, authorities suspected the church was the meeting place for planning the rebellion.
The church was torched in retaliation. Authorities arrested 313 alleged participants, and executed 35, including Vesey.
The congregation rebuilt the church and met there until 1834 — when all-black churches were outlawed by the state legislature.
Undeterred, they continued to meet in secret until the end of the Civil War in 1865, when they formally reorganized.
They adopted the name ‘Emanuel,’ meaning “God with us.”
At the time, the church was a wooden two-story structure, and it was destroyed in an earthquake in 1886.
Once again, it rebuilt.
During the civil rights movement of the 1960s, it was a destination stop for many of the leaders, including Martin Luther King Jr.
Today, the church — with its historic Gothic Revival-style structure and signature steeple — is a fixture in Charleston. With seats for 2,500, it has the largest capacity of any African-American church in Charleston.
It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1985.
Check out additional information about the church and news about the hate crime committed by Dylann Roof: