US & Canada

South Carolina shooting: Historic Church that hosted Dr King

Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina - Google Street View, December 2014 Image copyright Google
Image caption The current church was completed in 1891 after an earthquake damaged the earlier building

The South Carolina church that was the scene of a deadly shooting on 17 June has played an important role in African-American history.

Its origins date back to 1791 but it was formed in Charleston in 1816 by black members of the city's predominantly white Methodist Episcopal Church.

They broke away to form the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME) but religious gatherings of free blacks and slaves were prohibited and its founders were swiftly jailed.

In 1822, the Church was again a target of the authorities after they foiled a planned slave revolt led by Denmark Vesey, one of the founders.

More than 1,000 people were arrested over the plan and 35 of them, including Vesey, were executed and the church itself was burned down.

It was rebuilt in 1834 but with all-black Churches outlawed, its members met in secret until it was officially recognised following the end of the American Civil War in 1865 - when the name Emanuel was adopted.

An earthquake in August 1886 left the structure badly damaged. The church that stands on Calhoun Street, Charleston, today dates back from when rebuilding works were completed in 1891.

Image copyright Twitter

The church became a focal point again in the 1950s and 1960s when black leaders used it as a rallying point in the civil rights movement.

Dr Martin Luther King Jr gave a speech at the church in April 1962, urging the black community to register and vote in elections.

A year after the civil rights leader was assassinated, his wife Coretta Scott King led about 1,500 protesters on a march in April 1969 from the Emanuel Church to the local hospital to call for more rights for black hospital workers.

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