This Day in History

June 17, 2015: Charleston Church Massacre

Time Periods: 2001 - Present
Themes: African American, Racism & Racial Identity

On June 17, 2015, nine African American churchgoers were gunned down inside Charleston’s historic Mother Emanuel A.M.E. Church in an act of white supremacist terrorism. The nine people murdered were:

  • Clementa C. Pinckney (41)
  • Cynthia Marie Graham Hurd (54)
  • Susie Jackson (87)
  • Ethel Lee Lance (70)
  • Depayne Middleton-Doctor (49)
  • Tywanza Sanders (26)
  • Daniel L. Simmons (74)
  • Sharonda Coleman-Singleton (45)
  • Myra Thompson (59)

Emanuel Nine. Artwork by Panhandle Slim. Click image for more info and see artist’s FB page.

To place this massacre in historical context, we recommend the statements below by Bree Newsome and the January 2016 sermon by Rev. William J. Barber II at Riverside Church, with references to the massacre in San Bernadino. Barber talks about the moral compass needed to guide the U.S. forward on a path of justice in “The Misdiagnosis of Terrorism.”

Bree Newsome: I Refused to Be Ruled by Fear

Bree Newsome who ten days later removed the Confederate flag from the South Carolina state house, said,

I removed the flag not only in defiance of those who enslaved my ancestors in the southern United States, but also in defiance of the oppression that continues against Black people globally in 2015, including the ongoing ethnic cleansing in the Dominican Republic. I did it in solidarity with the South African students who toppled a statue of the white supremacist, colonialist Cecil Rhodes. I did it for all the fierce Black women on the front lines of the movement and for all the little Black girls who are watching us. I did it because I am free. Continue reading.

As SC Lawmakers Debate Removing Confederate Flag, Meet the Activist Who Took It Down on Democracy Now!

One of the things that was so tough about the immediate aftermath of the massacre was not just the violence itself, but the apparent, like, obfuscation about what had actually just happened, that it was a terrorist attack. You know, there were a lot of things being thrown out. Yes, it’s an issue of gun violence. You know, yes, it’s an issue of, you know, the church being targeted. But it’s specifically a Black church. And I think it’s important that we not remove it from the historical context, like really understand what that means. This exists in a long line of terrorist attacks against African Americans in this country. That’s what domestic terrorism looks like in the United States.

Massacres in U.S. History

This is one of countless massacres in U.S. history. Most of these massacres were designed to suppress voting rights, land ownership, economic advancement, education, freedom of the press, religion, LGBTQ rights, and/or labor rights of African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, Asians, and immigrants.

Massacres in US History | Zinn Education Project

Find related resources below, including the statement by