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article image'Mother Emanuel' AME Church is shedding tears today

By Karen Graham     Jun 18, 2015 in World
"Mother Emanuel," the loving name given to Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church in Charleston, South Carolina, has shed many tears over the last century or so. Yet, she is still a symbol and a beacon for African American worshipers.
Emanuel, God with us, is a fitting name for a church that is the oldest congregation of its kind in the South. Founded by worshipers fleeing racism, burned to the ground because of its connection to a thwarted slave rebellion, the history of this church reflects the development of African American religious institutions in the U.S.
Emanuel AME Church is just one of 1,400 historic buildings in Charleston, South Carolina, but its imposing steeple is one of the most recognizable structures you see when coming into the city. With white brick, Gothic-style construction, and an interior that retains the original altar, communion rail, pews, and light fixtures, Emanuel AME Church is one of only a few unaltered religious interiors in Charleston, especially from the Victorian period.
Mother Emanuel's early history starts in Pennsylvania
Mother Emanuel's congregation dates back to 1787 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania when Richard Allen founded the Free African Society. The group adhered to the Doctrines of Methodism proclaimed by John Wesley. In 1816, Rev. Morris Brown organized a church for "persons of color," and sought to have it affiliated with Allen's church.
Morris Brown travelled to Philadelphia to collaborate with the Rev. Richard Allen in the founding of...
Morris Brown travelled to Philadelphia to collaborate with the Rev. Richard Allen in the founding of the country’s first African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME) in 1816.
Black Past
It came to pass that three churches arose under the Free African Society, and they were called the "Bethel Circuit." Emanuel's congregation grew out of the Hampstead Church, located at Reid and Hanover Streets. In 1816, 1,400 members of the black congregation of Charleston's Methodist church withdrew because of a dispute over a burial ground.
Under the leadership of Morris Brown, they established the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal church, a denomination formally established in 1816 in Philadelphia. Just two years later, Morris Brown and other ministers of the church were jailed for holding religious gatherings of slaves and freedmen, in violation of state and local laws.
Denmark Vessey and the slave revolt
Denmark Vessey was one of the church's founders, and in 1822, he was to play a part in a planned slave revolt in Charleston. Vessey had been raised in slavery in the Virgin Islands, belonging to a slave trader Captain Joseph Vesey. Captain Vessey brought Denmark Vessey to Charleston when he settled there in 1783. In 1799, Denmark was able to buy his freedom, luckily being the owner of a winning lottery ticket worth $1,500.
Denmark Vessey was an African-American man who was most famous for planning a slave rebellion in the...
Denmark Vessey was an African-American man who was most famous for planning a slave rebellion in the United States in 1822.
Denmark Vessey started organizing the slave rebellion in December 1821. But someone snitched to the authorities and this resulted in over 313 participants being arrested, and 35, including Denmark Vessey were executed. As anyone would guess, the slave rebellion plot caused mass hysteria on the streets of Charleston, and all through the South. This forced Brown, suspected in the plot, but never charged, to flee to Philadelphia where he later became a Bishop in the AME Church.
Because of the slave revolt plot, the AME Church in Charleston was burned to the ground. Worship services did continue after the church was rebuilt until 1834. At this time, all black churches were outlawed. So worshipers met in secret, worshiping underground until 1865, and the end of the Civil War. The church was to be destroyed again in 1886 by an earthquake. But again, Mother Emanuel rose from the ashes like a great Phoenix.
Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church has been witness to so much of man's inhumanity to man more than once in the last 150 years of its existence, and every time, every single time, she has risen, rebuilt, and stood tall than before. It is an expression of the dignity of the black religious experience, perhaps, but even more so, it is a symbol of black freedom.
So yes, Mother Emanuel is shedding tears today. She is shedding tears in sorrow for the nine lives lost in a senseless killing by someone who just wanted to kill some black people. She is also shedding tears for a nation, a nation of all colors, still in the grip of this senseless tragedy.
More about Emanuel AME church, Civil War, oldest of its kind in the south, god with us, turmoil and hate
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