Referred to simply as Mother Emanuel, The Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church was founded in 1816 and is the oldest African Methodist Episcopal church in the southern United States. It was founded as the Hampstead Church by African Americans who were former members of Charleston’s three Methodist Episcopal churches
Laws at the time required churches to be dominated by whites, though African Americans held separate services. The white-denominated churches had increasingly discriminated against the black churches, culminating in a hearse house being built over the black burial ground.
In protest, a church leader left a white Methodist Church, and 4,000 Black members of three Methodist churches followed. Years of dissension followed. The church was burned by a mob of whites in response to Nate Turners Slave Rebellion and Denmark Vesey’s Slave Revolt Plot.
In 1834 all black churches were outlawed in Charleston. The AME congregation met in secret until the end of the Civil War. The current brick and stucco building was completed in 1891.
The original alter, communion rails and pews can still be seen. The pipe organ was installed in 1902
The church became a focus of national tragedy when in 2015 nine members of a Bible study class were gunned down by Dylan Roof. Flowers and tokens are still being laid at the street gate of the church.