Charleston’s Emanuel AME Church Celebrates 200 Year Anniversary With Revival Meeting, Unveiling of Memorial for ‘Emanuel 9’

A protest resulted in the founding of Emanuel AME Church, whose first leaders, including the Rev. Morris Brown, promptly ran afoul of the white authorities for asserting their independence and attempting to educate members of the black congregation.

Another protest, this time orchestrated by angry whites responding to the threat of a slave revolt, turned the modest church building to cinder and ash. Founding member Denmark Vesey was alleged to have plotted the rebellion. He and about 30 others were killed. Brown was imprisoned for months without a conviction.

This tumultuous beginning — and the many intervening years, with their triumphs and traumas — will be remembered this week on the occasion of Emanuel’s 200th anniversary. The festivities will culminate on Sunday with a special morning service followed by the unveiling of the Emanuel 9 Memorial design by Michael Arad, the man largely responsible for the critically acclaimed 9/11 Memorial.

“We could not help but celebrate this bicentennial of the founding of this church with glory and praise,” the Rev. Eric S.C. Manning, pastor of Emanuel AME, said in a statement. “We have persisted in the face of racial hostility, survived the burning of the church to the ground in 1822; its destruction in an earthquake in 1886; and the horrific murders of nine members of the congregation on June 17, 2015.”’

Special anniversary events, all open to the public, are slated Wednesday through Sunday.

  • A revival service is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at the church, 110 Calhoun St. The service features guest preacher the Rev. Justin J. Gamble, pastor of Mt. Sinai Missionary Baptist Church in Georgetown.
  • At 6:30 p.m. Thursday, the Rev. Nelson B. Rivers III, pastor of Charity Missionary Baptist Church in North Charleston and vice president of religious affairs and external relations for the National Action Network, will lead a second revival service at Emanuel.
  • An anniversary banquet is planned for 7 p.m. Friday at the Francis Marion Hotel, 387 King St. Tickets are $50 each. For reservations, contact Sylvia Blake at 843-722-2561 or email
  • The 200th anniversary worship service is 9:30 a.m. Sunday. It will be led by the Rt. Rev. John R. Bryant, a retired bishop of the AME Church.
  • The Sunday service will be followed at 12:30 p.m. by the unveiling of the Emanuel 9 Memorial design. Arad, a partner with Handel Architects in New York City, will be present to describe the design.

“While we celebrate our history each year in July, we feel particularly compelled this year to condemn terrorist acts against people of color and be the place where others may engage in dialogue about achieving racial reconciliation once and for all,” Manning said.

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SOURCE: Adam Parker
The Post & Courier