On Wednesday night, nine people were tragically killed at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church, which is historically black.
The victims were reportedly gunned down by a young white male named Dylann Storm Roof. According to the accounts of eyewitnesses, the suspect's motives for this abhorrent act were evidently hateful. During the shooting, he allegedly stated:
You rape our women and you're taking over our country. And you have to go.
Following the shooting, Charleston Police Chief Greg Mullen said, "I do believe this was a hate crime."
Unfortunately, this is not the first time Emanuel AME has experienced violence of this character, which has much to do with its storied past.
The church has long been a symbol of black freedom in Charleston and beyond, and is warmly referred to as "Mother Emanuel" by members of the community.
It was founded by Rev. Morris Brown in 1816, many years before slavery was abolished. Brown wanted to provide a place of worship for black people, given the segregated nature of other churches at the time.
The vast majority of Charleston's black community joined the church, which was immediately unsettling to their white counterparts. After the church was associated with a slave uprising in 1822, it was burned down and disbanded.
The man who devised the uprising, Denmark Vesey, was one of the founders of the church.
He planned the revolt for June 16, 1822, which, as the Washington Post notes, is exactly 193 years and one day before the shooting on Wednesday evening.
Subsequently, black churches were made illegal in 1834. Church members wouldn't let any of this stop them, however, and continued to hold their services in secret.
It would not be until after the cessation of the Civil War that the church was publicly revitalized. From that point onward, it played a prominent role in advocating for the rights of blacks, particularly during the civil rights era.
Throughout the 20th century, it was the hub of the Civil Rights Movement in South Carolina.
Emanuel AME Church has been a beacon of freedom, human dignity and hope from its onset.
Founded in an era of state-sanctioned oppression and enslavement, it found a way to survive and even thrive.
In spite of the horrendous and deeply painful incident on Wednesday, there's no doubt Emanuel AME will endure, and these photos prove that.
Emanuel AME Church is a historic symbol of freedom and the oldest black congregation in the South.
Early trustees of #EmanuelAME Church in #Charleston. A Black historical treasure assailed. pic.twitter.com/K2yVhmxQcA — Khaled Bey (@KhaledBeydoun) June 18, 2015
Denmark Vesey, one of the church's founders, was a heroic leader who planned a major slave revolt in 1822.
The recent monument to Denmark Vesey in North Charleston, SC. It took 200 years for Charleston to allow this. pic.twitter.com/hpQEkBMvpy — Shaun King (@ShaunKing) June 18, 2015
The church has always been a place of refuge.
#EmanuelAME Church offered a place of worship and escape from Jim Crow dehumanization. #CharlestonShooting pic.twitter.com/MxFjJKh7RU — Khaled Bey (@KhaledBeydoun) June 18, 2015
During the Civil Rights Movement, Martin Luther King, Jr. and other leaders visited the church.
Martin Luther King Jr. speaking at #EmanuelAME church in #Charleston 53 years ago (h/t @TeachingSC). pic.twitter.com/lrYrb3ClZN — Will Green (@wfcgreen) June 18, 2015
Coretta Scott King visited AME a year after her husband was assassinated, also marching in solidarity with black hospital workers.
Coretta Scott King led march in support of striking hospital workers on April 30, 1969 in Charleston + visited AME: pic.twitter.com/oDrp9TletG — Michael Skolnik (@MichaelSkolnik) June 18, 2015
The church has always been at the center of the fight for freedom and civil rights.
Coretta Scott King leading a march in 1969. The starting point was Emanuel AME Church, attacked by terrorist tonight. pic.twitter.com/HSRGwHWFKY — BrownBlaze (@brownblaze) June 18, 2015
Rev. Clementa Pinckney, a victim of the shooting, was a prominent advocate for civil rights. His congregation will continue his work.
This is Rev. Clementa Pinckney. Just 41 years old. Father of 2. A pastor and state senator. A kind, bold man. pic.twitter.com/l3vLSlyXWq — Shaun King (@ShaunKing) June 18, 2015
The community has not let this break them.
Group of men praying passionately in a circle near the church in Charleston. pic.twitter.com/k3uREvHP9g — Ashley Killough (@KilloughCNN) June 18, 2015
Local leaders are coming together to support the church and community.
State Sen. Larry Grooms, State Rep. David Mack and Chaplain Rev. R.J. Reid pause for prayer near the church. pic.twitter.com/nE5vN0tfHs — Ashley Killough (@KilloughCNN) June 18, 2015
A packed memorial service was held at the church named for Emanuel AME's founder.
Inside the Morris Brown AME Church pic.twitter.com/oDPPRk3IqB — Liz Kreutz (@ABCLiz) June 18, 2015
Hundreds also gathered outside of the church, singing "Amazing Grace."
Amazing Grace being sung by 200 people outside Morris Brown AME Church pic.twitter.com/gsjXcpQxdg — schuyler kropf (@skropf47) June 18, 2015
Even as the community questions this senseless act, they exhibit solidarity.
Nine Are Killed in Charleston Church Shooting http://t.co/Nn4LVOPirv (Photo: David Goldman/AP via the New York Times) pic.twitter.com/5zvqWb4KBx — Josh (@_six_FIVE_) June 18, 2015