White terrorist slays nine in Charleston church founded by Denmark Vesey on anniversary of his 1822 rebellion

Democracy Now! reports, “Around 5:30 a.m. this morning (June 27), Bree Newsome climbed to the top of the flagpole flying the Confederate battle flag on the grounds of the South Carolina state capitol, unhooked the flag and brought it down as police waited to arrest her.”

The Bay View joins all people of good will in saluting and praying for these dear souls, pastor and members of Emanuel African American Methodist Church, whose lives were taken in a terrorist assassination there on June 17: Rev. Clementa Pinckney, Rev. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Cynthia Hurd, Susie Jackson, Ethel Lance, DePayne Middleton-Doctor, Tywanza Sanders, Myra Thompson and Daniel Simmons.
The Bay View joins all people of good will in saluting and praying for these dear souls, pastor and members of Emanuel African American Methodist Church, lovingly known as Mother Emanuel, whose lives were taken in a terrorist assassination there on June 17: Rev. Clementa Pinckney, Rev. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Cynthia Hurd, Susie Jackson, Ethel Lance, DePayne Middleton-Doctor, Tywanza Sanders, Myra Thompson and Daniel Simmons.

President Obama delivers the eulogy for State Senator and Mother Emanuel pastor Rev. Clementa Pinckney on Friday, June 26. It appears to many to mark a fundamental, courageous change in the president’s racial politics. Donald E. Lacy, on his Saturday morning KPOO radio show, summed it up: “The cat’s out of the bag!”

UC Berkeley Black Student Union holds vigil for lives stolen by Charleston shooting

An overflow crowd gathers in front of Morris Brown AME Church for a prayer vigil on Thursday, June 18. – Photo: Paul Bowers
An overflow crowd gathers in front of Morris Brown AME Church for a prayer vigil on Thursday, June 18. – Photo: Paul Bowers

Today, June 18, the Black Student Union at UC Berkeley is holding a vigil on the steps of Sproul Plaza for lives stolen by the terrorist attack that took nine lives at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church last night. We will gather to mourn both the lives taken on the night of June 17, as well as the daily attacks on the Black community by white terrorists, the cops and the many manifestations of white supremacy.

We are reminded that as Black people, we are not safe in this country and why the Black Panther Party advocated for armed self-defense, because America has – and never will – protect us. We must protect each other.

We are reminded that as Black people, we are not safe in this country and why the Black Panther Party advocated for armed self-defense, because America never has – and never will – protect us. We must protect each other.

The terrorist attack is reminiscent of 1963, when four little girls were murdered at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Alabama when Ku Klux Klan members bombed the Black church. We are reminded that we still live in Jim Crow racial terror.

Nine people were killed at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, including South Carolina Sen. Clementa Pinckney, pastor of the historic church. This is nothing short of an assassination.

We urge for people to stand up, take the streets and deplore these acts of racial hatred. Silence is violence. As Black students, we have a duty to our community on campus and off campus. We will keep fighting, and we will win.

In struggle and revolution,

The Black Student Union at UC Berkeley

This story first appeared on Afrikan Black Coalition.

An undeniable act of terrorism

Dylann Storm Roof wears a jacket with the flags of apartheid-era South Africa and white-ruled Rhodesia in a photo on his Facebook page. He was arrested in North Carolina on June 18.
Dylann Storm Roof wears a jacket with the flags of apartheid-era South Africa and white-ruled Rhodesia in a photo on his Facebook page. He was arrested in North Carolina on June 18.

“We condemn this undeniable act of terrorism intended to strike fear at a time when we have stood together to declare that Black lives matter. We continue to fight for a world where young people of color can exist with full dignity, justice, and humanity in a safer and more just America. Our thoughts go out to the families of those killed and to the congregation that lost its pastor.” – Dante Barry, director of Million Hoodies Movement for Justice

Charleston shootings reflect terrorism – not its origins

Needed: A White House conference on racial justice – racism deserves a remedy

by Rev. Jesse L. Jackson Sr.

Chicago – Not unlike the four little girls killed in a church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1963, today the nation and the world are saddened and outraged at the hatred and senseless killing of nine African Americans in the historic Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina – including its pastor, a state senator. Over three decades ago Operation PUSH held its national convention centered in this church and I did two televised Firing Line interviews with William F. Buckley there.

In the South Carolina Senate chambers on Thursday, Sen. Clementa Pinckney’s place is draped in memorial. In the neighboring seat, Sen. Vincent Sheheen weeps. – Photo: AP
In the South Carolina Senate chambers on Thursday, Sen. Clementa Pinckney’s place is draped in memorial. In the neighboring seat, Sen. Vincent Sheheen weeps. – Photo: AP

And, not unlike the economic and political context of Birmingham, the nation and its leadership are still failing to see, understand and come to grips with the underlying economic and political circumstances that led to such a tragedy. This young white man did not originate terrorism. He is merely reflecting decades and centuries of institutional and active political terrorism. There were 164 lynchings of African Americans between 1877 and 1950 in South Carolina.

The shooting in Charleston is the result and the product of a protracted political genocide resulting from institutionalized racism, centuries of dehumanization and the current denial of economic and political equality of opportunity. Today everyone is outraged at the killings, but there is not the same outrage that African Americans are number one in infant mortality, in life expectancy, in unemployment, in cheap wages, in access to capital and denial of bank loans, in imprisonment, in segregated housing and home foreclosures, in segregated and underfunded public schools, in poverty, in heart disease, liver disease, diabetes, mental health issues, HIV/AIDS and the lack of access to health care and more.

We ignore this institutionalized state of terror and the resulting racial fears at our peril.

We ignore this institutionalized state of terror and the resulting racial fears at our peril.

There was an urgency to identify and arrest the shooter before he hurts anyone else, but there is not the same urgency to identify and arrest the current economic and political conditions – the institutional racism and structural injustices – before anyone else gets hurt.

Today in South Carolina, a historically Black university, South Carolina State, is on the verge of closing, but I don’t see the same urgency to save it by the governor and the South Carolina legislature. Gov. Nikki Haley appropriately asked South Carolinians to pray for the victims and their families of these killings and decried violence at religious institutions, but she denies poor people access to health care by refusing to accept Medicaid monies under the Affordable Care Act – which is jeopardizing the economic viability of the state’s hospitals and costing South Carolinians thousands of jobs – and she still flies the Confederate flag on the Capitol grounds.

The Confederate flag that flies over the South Carolina Capitol has been contested for decades by Black state legislators and the public. No longer atop the Capitol building, it remains a stone’s throw away on the Capitol grounds. – Photo: Mark Wilson
The Confederate flag that flies over the South Carolina Capitol has been contested for decades by Black state legislators and the public. No longer atop the Capitol building, it remains a stone’s throw away on the Capitol grounds. – Photo: Mark Wilson

But these injustices and indifferences are not just limited to South Carolina. They’re national in scope! We need a White House conference on racial justice and urban policy to make sure no one else is being hurt because of economic, political and leadership indifference or lack of vision of what needs to be done! Racism deserves a remedy.

The Charleston police chief said, “We will put all effort, we will put all resources and we will put all of our energy into finding this individual who committed this crime tonight.” We need the president, the Congress, the 50 governors and state legislatures to put the same effort, resources and energy into ending the crime of racism, economic injustice and political denial throughout the nation.

We’ve had enough Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice and Walter Scott killings. We’ve had enough infant mortality deaths. We’ve had enough unemployment – always at least twice the rate of Whites.

We’ve had enough of segregated and inadequately funded educational opportunities. We’ve had enough lack of access to capital. We’ve had enough lack of access to health care. We’ve had enough of homelessness and home foreclosures. We need prayer and we need hope, but we also need a political commitment and a financial budget committed to ending this protracted political genocide.

We need leadership with a vision for racial justice. We need an investment for economic justice – the current rising tide hasn’t lifted all boats. And we need fairness in political representation.

We need leadership with a vision for racial justice. We need an investment for economic justice – the current rising tide hasn’t lifted all boats. And we need fairness in political representation.

That’s what we need if we are ever going to put an end to the protracted political genocide of which African Americans have been the victims for nearly 400 years in the United States. We deserve equal economic and political opportunity. We deserve equal justice under the law.

As the AP reported, “The Emanuel AME church is a historic African-American church that traces its roots to 1816, when several churches split from Charleston’s Methodist Episcopal church. One of its founders, Denmark Vesey, tried to organize a slave revolt in 1822. He was caught, and white landowners had his church burned in revenge. Parishioners worshipped underground until after the Civil War.”

The beautiful history of resistance and leadership of Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC

by Shaun King

Original wooden Emanuel AME Church, Charleston, S.C.
Original wooden Emanuel AME Church, Charleston, S.C.

Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, is not just the latest location to be visited by domestic terrorism in our country – it is a deeply rich American treasure. In fact, including the horror that has just befallen this church, few institutions are as quintessentially American as Mother Emanuel – as it is so affectionately called by those who know and love it.

One of the primary ports for the trans-Atlantic slave trade, Charleston was an international human-trafficking hub. Hundreds of thousands of Africans were brought to the South Carolina shores and sold on the streets of this South Carolina town like one would buy bread or milk today. While many of these African women, men and children were taken from Charleston to cities and states all over the country, an enormous Black community – both on and off the plantations was formed.

In 1816, nearly 50 years before the Emancipation Proclamation ended slavery, many African American members of the Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, a predominantly white church, formally left the congregation because of a critical dispute over burial grounds. In 1818, Morris Brown, a Black man born in Charleston, formed Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.

Nearly 4,000 African Americans from all over Charleston then left their predominately white churches and joined Emanuel.

Nearly 4,000 African Americans from all over Charleston then left their predominately white churches and joined Emanuel.

One of the founding members of Emanuel AME Church was Denmark Vesey. In 1822, Vesey was leading what would have been the largest slave revolt in the history of the United States. When law enforcement found out about the plan, Vesey and five others were executed.

So afraid of the organizing role Emanuel AME played in this plot, white supremacists burned it down. While the church was rebuilt, just about 10 years later, in 1834, all-Black churches were outlawed in Charleston and Emanuel AME was forced underground. There, it not only survived, but thrived all the way until the end of the Civil War in 1865.

Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C. – Photo: Brendan Smialowski, AFP
Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C. – Photo: Brendan Smialowski, AFP

It was at this point that the church took on the name we know now. Having played an important role in the Underground Railroad, the church continued to serve as a beacon of light and hope for African Americans in Charleston and throughout the region.

Shaun King is a frequent contributor to Daily Kos; he can be reached via Twitter at ShaunKing. This story first appeared on Daily Kos.

Denmark Vesey lives!

“He then read in the Bible where God commanded, that all should be cut off, both men, women and children, and he said he believed it was no sin for us to do so, for the Lord had commanded us to do it.” – Testimony of Rolla, belonging to Thomas Bennett, recorded in the trial record of the Denmark Vesey Slave Conspiracy of 1822

In 1771, 14-year-old Denmark Vesey was transported from St. Thomas to Cape Francais in Haiti by slave trader Captain Joseph Vesey. Upon a return trip to Cape Francais, Captain Vesey was forced to reclaim Denmark, who his master said was suffering from epileptic fits – probably staged, as Denmark would have known that slaves in Haiti were worked to death. Denmark accompanied Captain Vesey on his trading voyages until the captain retired to Charleston, never again showing signs of epilepsy.

In 1799, Vesey won $1,500 in the lottery and bought his freedom for $600. He could not purchase the freedom of his wife and children, however, and some claimed that this fact motivated his crusade to destroy the institution of slavery.

“Mother Emanuel,” as this magnificent church is known, is the oldest AME church in the South – founded in 1816 – with the oldest and one of the largest Black congregations south of Baltimore. – Photo: TheChurchesoftheWorld.com
“Mother Emanuel,” as this magnificent church is known, is the oldest AME church in the South – founded in 1816 – with the oldest and one of the largest Black congregations south of Baltimore. – Photo: TheChurchesoftheWorld.com

Vesey joined the newly formed African Methodist Episcopal Church in 1817. He became a “class leader,” preaching to a small group in his home during the week. White Charlestonians constantly monitored the African church, disrupting services and arresting members.

An angry Vesey began preaching from the Old Testament, particularly Exodus, and taught followers that they were the New Israelites, the chosen people whose enslavement God would punish with death.

In 1822, Vesey and other leaders from the African Church began plotting a rebellion. His chief lieutenant was an East African priest named Gullah Jack, who led conspirators in prayer and rituals and gave them amulets to protect them in battle. Vesey’s theology of liberation, combined with Gullah Jack’s African mysticism, inspired potential participants, and word of the rebellion grew.

Vesey originally set the date for revolt on July 14, Bastille Day, then advanced it to June 16 and 17 (193 years to the day of the massacre at Emanuel AME – ed.), and men from Charleston and surrounding plantations planned to seize Charleston’s arsenals and guard houses, kill the governor, set fire to the city and kill every white man they saw. But in early June, several nervous slaves leaked the plot to their masters, and Charleston authorities began arresting leaders.

Vesey was captured on June 22, and he and the conspirators were brought to trial. Despite torture and the threat of execution, the men refused to give up their followers. On July 2, Denmark Vesey and five other men were hanged. Gullah Jack was executed several days later, with the total number of executions reaching 35 by Aug. 9.

Vesey became a martyr for African-Americans and a symbol for the abolitionist movement.

In the aftermath of the Vesey rebellion, the African Church was burned down and authorities passed a series of laws further restricting the rights of Charleston slaves. Vesey became a martyr for African-Americans and a symbol for the abolitionist movement, while the increasingly militant politics of white America dragged the country toward Civil War.

“At almost every meeting, it was said, Vesey or one of his comrades ‘read to us from the Bible, how the children of Israel were delivered out of Egypt from bondage.’ That theme was struck insistently: the deliverance from Egypt, the movement of God among his captive people. (No wonder, then, that in some Black traditions it was said that Vesey or his fellows were the inspiration for the ageless Black song of faith and struggle, ‘Go Down, Moses.’” – Vincent Harding, “There is a River”

Vesey leaves the white church

In 1815, whites in Charleston discovered that Black Methodists had been secretly pooling money to buy freedom for enslaved congregants. Whites moved to restrict Black autonomy.

They planned to construct a hearse house on top of a Black burial ground, a move Charleston Blacks saw as a final insult. Over 4,000 Black members left white churches in protest and formed an African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston.

Denmark Vesey followed them, leaving the segregated Second Presbyterian Church, where slaves were taught the words of St. Paul: “Servants, obey your masters.” In the AME Church, Vesey found the freedom to preach his beliefs.

Planning a rebellion

At weekly AME “class meetings” held in his home, Vesey taught a radical new liberation theology. He spoke only from the Old Testament, particularly Exodus, casting his followers as the New Israelites, whom God would lead to freedom.

Erica Alcox was one of the community members who gathered for a quiet meeting June 18 near the Denmark Vesey statue in Hampton Park. – Photo: Paul Bowers
Erica Alcox was one of the community members who gathered for a quiet meeting June 18 near the Denmark Vesey statue in Hampton Park. The statue was erected only last year. – Photo: Paul Bowers

In 1818, white authorities disrupted an AME service attended by free Black ministers from Philadelphia and arrested 140 people. Vesey considered leaving Charleston for Africa, but he decided to stay and “see what he could do for his fellow creatures.” With a new urgency, he preached that freedom for slaves would be realized, and he began plotting a rebellion.

Vesey enlists an African priest

Following the 1818 raid on the African Church, Vesey enlisted Gullah Jack, a church member and an Angolan priest and healer, to recruit native Africans to join his rebellion. As a conjurer who could control the supernatural world, Jack was respected among the slaves working on Charleston’s plantations.

At secret nighttime meetings, Jack led men in prayer, singing and ritual meals that transformed them from powerless slaves to rebels with a common purpose. He prescribed a special diet and gave them crab claws as amulets to protect them in battle. Through Jack, Vesey was able to reach many more recruits.

Betrayed by a Christian

Like Denmark Vesey, George Wilson was a class leader in the AME Church, but he followed the Christian doctrine of loving one’s neighbor and was devoted to his master. When fellow slave Rolla Bennett told him of the rebellion, Wilson pleaded with him “to let it alone.”

Five sleepless nights later, on June 14, Wilson told his master of the plot, confirming the confession of another man and leading to the arrest and execution of Rolla Bennett and his conspirators. Although he was granted his freedom as a reward, Wilson eventually lost his sanity and committed suicide.

Beyond the grave

After the executions of Denmark Vesey and 34 others, Charleston authorities exiled the African Church leaders and razed the building. Although devastated by the destruction of their church, After the executions of Denmark Vesey and 34 others, Charleston authorities exiled the African Church leaders and razed the building. Although devastated by the destruction of their church, Black Charlestonians continued to honor Vesey’s revolutionary Old Testament theology in secret.

After the executions of Denmark Vesey and 34 others, Charleston authorities exiled the African Church leaders and razed the building, but Black Charlestonians continued to honor Vesey’s revolutionary Old Testament theology in secret.

For abolitionists such as David Walker, Frederick Douglass and Harriet Beecher Stowe, Vesey became a symbol of resistance and an inspiration in their writings. White Charleston responded by increasing efforts to convert slaves to New Testament Christianity and by passing legislation to further restrict the rights of slaves. This increasingly militant path eventually led to the Civil War.

This story first appeared in This Far by Faith.