This Day in History: June 17th


They are known as the Charleston 9 (#NeverForget) and their names are:

  • Cynthia Marie Graham Hurd, 54, a Bible study member and manager for the Charleston County Public Library system; sister of politician and former state senator Malcolm Graham.
  • Susie Jackson, 87, a Bible study and church choir member. She was the oldest victim of the shooting.
  • Ethel Lee Lance, 70, the church’s sexton.
  • Depayne Middleton-Doctor, 49, a pastor who was also employed as a school administrator and admissions coordinator at Southern Wesleyan University.
  • Tywanza Sanders, 26, a Bible study member; grandnephew of victim Susie Jackson. He was the youngest victim of the shooting.
  • Daniel L. Simmons, 74, a pastor who also served at Greater Zion AME Church in Awendaw.
  • Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, 45, a pastor, a speech therapist and track coach at Goose Creek High School. Her son, Chris, was a major league baseball prospect.
  • Myra Thompson, 59, a Bible study teacher.
  • Clementa C. Pinckney, 41, the church’s pastor and a South Carolina state senator.

On a Wednesday evening, June 17, 2015, a white man, Dylann Roof, 21, joined the Bible study class at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church (known as Mother Emanuel) in Charleston, South Carolina. He sat through a two-hour Bible study and around 9 p.m. ET, he opened fire. He murdered nine people. His goal, according to him, was to ignite a race war.

The domestic terrorist was convicted in December of 2016 of 33 federal hate crimes and murder charges stemming from the shooting. On January 10, 2017, Roof was sentenced to death. In a public statement, he was forgiven by the families of the nine victims. President Barack Obama spoke at the funeral of Pastor Pinckney.

The massacre sparked a movement to remove the Confederate flag from the South Carolina statehouse. A petition written by journalist and talk show host, Karen Hunter, garnered 571,000 signatures in three days, which led to pressure on the South Carolina State Legislature to vote to remove the flag, which they did. Activist Bree Newsome was also arrested for physically removing the flag before the official vote.

Mother Emanuel is the oldest AME church in the South. It has one of the oldest and largest Black congregations south of Baltimore. It is the church of Denmark Vesey, that organized one of the largest rebellions against slavery in United States history in 1822. His attempt failed and he was executed, but his church survived.

You May Also Like