Two years ago, nine people were murdered while attending a bible study at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in downtown Charleston.
The shooting shocked and saddened the city and the nation. But it has also sparked a national dialogue on race.
That first discussion began nine days after the shooting, when President Barack Obama delivered a stirring eulogy for the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, one of the nine victims killed in the shootings on June 17, 2015, in the College of Charleston’s TD Arena.
Soon after the tragedy, the College established the Race and Social Justice Initiative. Through a collaborative effort led by the Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture, Addlestone Library, the African American Studies Program, the Lowcountry Digital History Initiative (LDHI), and others, the Race and Social Justice Initiative was tasked with facilitating public events, exhibitions, and various projects that promote awareness of the history and ongoing struggles of racial injustice.
The latest Race and Social Justice Initiative conference titled “Transforming Public History from Charleston to the Atlantic World” is taking place this weekend.
The shootings also convinced people to become more personally involved in fighting racism.
“The AME shooting inspired many people at the local and national level to join organizations like Black Lives Matter, Gun Sense SC, Showing Up for Racial Justice, the South Carolina Progressive Network, and others,” says Jon Hale, associate professor of Educational History.
He added, “It reinvigorated a national discussion around race and white supremacy. Thousands paid their respects in Charleston and spoke to the rest of the nation from here. President Barack Obama, Bryan Stevenson, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Marian Wright Edelman, and others called for national unity and critical engagement to confront the deep-seated hatred exposed by Roof. Charleston and the rest of the country refused to start the race war Dylann Roof had hoped for and instead took important steps to join and lead efforts to eradicate racism. “
But Hale says we still have a very long way to go.
“While the shooting inspired a movement, it is painfully clear two years later that the roots of white supremacy and racism are largely untouched. Flags and statues have been removed yet the deeper problem has yet to be eradicated. Roof provided clear evidence that white supremacy is alive and well in Charleston and across the nation and we are all still called upon to help overcome it.”