In response to the tragic shootings at the Emanuel AME Church on June 17, 2015, the College of Charleston and community partners will host events on Sept. 14 and 15, 2015, to examine the history of racial violence targeting African American churches. The events are free and open to the public.

These programs will particularly reflect on the historic connections between the 1963 bombing at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala., and the 2015 shootings at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C. The goal of these events is to create awareness about past racial violence, and to facilitate dialogue and community healing in the aftermath of ongoing racial violence today.

The featured event – “Ties That Bind Two Holy Cities: Reflections in Charleston by  Survivors of the 1963 Birmingham Church Bombing” – is an open community forum at 6:30 p.m. on Sept. 15, 2015, at Burke High School Auditorium. Doors open at 6 p.m. Speakers will include Sarah Collins Rudolph, Junie Collins Williams and Janie Collins Simpkins. Their sister, Addie Mae Collins, was one of the four victims of the church bombing that took place in Birmingham on Sept. 15, 1963. A representative of the Emanuel AME Church will also speak. The Mother Emanuel Clara K. Washington Choir will perform musical selections beginning at 6 p.m. to honor the victims and survivors of these tragedies.

“Ties That Bind Two Holy Cities” is the first series of the College of Charleston’s new Race and Social Justice Initiative, funded by Google Inc. and led by the Avery Research Center for African American History, African American Studies, and Addlestone Library. Additional supporters include SunTrust Banks and the International African American Museum. Over the next 18 months, the College will host various events to promote dialogue about race and social justice in Charleston, South Carolina, and beyond.

Read more about the grant from Google.

On Sept. 14, 2015, the College of Charleston will host a screening of Spike Lee’s Academy Award-nominated documentary, 4 Little Girls (1997), at 6 p.m. in Room 227 of Addlestone Library. The documentary traces the events and aftermath of the bombing at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, and features family members of the victims.

Moderating a discussion after the film screening will be Jon Hale, assistant professor of teacher education at the College, and Tracy Snipe, associate professor of political science at Wright State University. Snipe is a Charleston native now with Wright State University in Dayton, OH, and is currently completing a biography of Sarah Collins Rudolph, titled The Fifth Girl: Sole Survivor of the 16th Street Bombing, and a biography of Junie Collins Williams, titled Saving the Best Wine for Last: Remembrances of the 16th St. Bombing.

“It is important that we remember that the brutal attack on Mother Emanuel happened within a larger context,” College of Charleston’s Dean of Libraries John White said about the upcoming events. “White terrorism aimed at African American churches has a long history. Nowhere is that more apparent than in Birmingham, Alabama, which faced a similar, unspeakable tragedy in 1963. We hope that an honest discussion about this history of racial violence can help us make certain that we never have to confront another tragedy like this in Birmingham, Charleston, or elsewhere.”

For more information about these events, contact Jon Hale (, Tracy Snipe ( or College of Charleston Libraries (843.953.8002).