What We’re Reading: Historical Commentaries on the Charleston Shooting

On Wednesday, June 17, Dylan Roof shot eight parishioners and their pastor during a Bible group meeting in Charleston’s Emanuel AME Church. Now, as the Charleston community and Emanuel church family gather together to mourn murdered loved ones, the nation pauses to consider America’s history of racial violence. Much has been published in the weeks since the tragedy, and for this week’s What We’re Reading, AHA staff has selected a few articles that focus on the history of Emanuel Church itself, racial violence and fear in America, and the ensuing debate on the Confederate flag.

On the History of Charleston’s Emanuel AME Church

The Long and Proud History of Charleston’s AME Church
Manisha Sinha’s piece explains the struggles to found an independent black church in 1790s Philadelphia, which led to the creation of the AME denomination.

Denmark Vesey and the History of Charleston’s Emanuel AME Church
NPR’s Morning Edition featured an interview with historian Douglas Egerton about the remarkable life of Denmark Vesey, and the origins of the Charleston church’s association with the black community’s struggle for liberation and power in South Carolina.

Obama Sings Amazing Grace in Clementa Pinckney Eulogy
President Obama delivers the eulogy at Clementa Pinckney’s funeral and stuns attendees upon beginning to sing “Amazing Grace.”

Historical Commentaries on Racism in America

Dylann Roof and the White Fear of a Black Takeover
In the wake of the tragic Charleston shooting, historian Jason Morgan Ward examines a deep history of racial fear.

Race Hatred is a Deep Sickness in American Society
Eric Liu writes on “the responsibility we share as inheritors of all that is good–and bad–about America” and why we must pause to remember our history.

Before Charleston’s Church Shooting, a Long History of Attacks
In the aftermath of the Charleston shooting, historian Douglas Egerton writes in the New York Times about how South Carolina is no stranger to racial violence.

Church Burnings after Charleston: Part of a ‘Long, Dark History That Never Stopped”
The Guardian places the church burnings since the Charleston shooting in historical context, looking at the symbolic value of the church and why it has been a target of racial violence since the early 19th century.

Commentaries on the Confederate Flag

Taking Down the Confederate Flag Is Not Enough to Erase Racism
Historian Michael W. Twitty reflects on the recent debate on removing the Confederate flag from the South Carolina capitol.

Historians, Civil War Reenactors Weigh in on Confederate Flag History
Historians and reenactors in South Carolina examine the complex significance of the Confederate flag, and how that significance has evolved over time.

On Twitter: #CharlestonSyllabus

#CharlestonSyllabus
On the evening of June 19, 2015, the hashtag #CharlestonSyllabus began trending on Twitter, thanks to historian Kidada E. Williams @KidadaEWilliams, who was inspired by a tweet from Brandeis’s Chad Williams @Dr_ChadWilliams. A host of other Twitter users added books and primary sources on the history of slavery, the South, and African American life. The University of Iowa’s Keisha N. Blain @KeishaBlain, also a blogger for the African American Intellectual History Society @AAIHS, began compiling the syllabus from the tweets.

#CharlestonSyllabus is not merely a clearinghouse of information; it’s an example of how historians can mobilize our collective expertise during a time of grief.

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  1. Saffron Blue

    Thank you for all the social media and historical references My heart hurts for all the people whose life was made short by this madman Roof. Lord Gimme Shelter.

    Reply