In the days following the June 17th massacre at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, at least six predominantly and historically Black churches were set ablaze. It has only been a few days since the last Black church in the South was burned. Sadly, the brief reprieve from church burnings inspires both relief and foreboding as one has to wonder if the trend will resume in the coming weeks. Given that there has been little to no coverage from mainstream media outlets, many on social media have asked: Who is burning Black churches? Unfortunately, this is a question we may never see answered. Here is what we do know right now:
1. The first church burned was College Hill Seventh Day Adventist Church in Knoxville, Tenn. The church was determined to have been attacked by arsonists just four days after the massacre at Emanuel AME Church. However, investigators believe it was not a hate crime because there were no signs left behind indcating that the church was targeted for hate.
2. The second church fire was at God’s Power Church of Christ in Macon, Georgia on June 23rd. Like the first fire, this event was determined to be an act of arson yet officials chose not to comment on why exactly the fire was set.
3. Briar Creek Road Baptist Church in Charlotte, North Carolina was the third Black church to catch fire in the days following the Emanuel AME massacre. Investigators revisited this case after several other church fires denoted a pattern. They have not yet determined if this incident on June 24th was a hate crime.
4. On June 26th, nine days following the massacre at Emanuel AME Church, Glover Grove Baptist Church in Warrenville, South Carolina was set on fire in the wee hours of the morning. After originally suggesting the fire might have been caused by an electrical problem, further investigations of the cause of the fire were inconclusive.
5. Also on June 26th, Greater Miracle Temple in Tallahassee, Florida was burned down. State officials determined that this event was an accident rather than an act of arson.
6. The last church (we know of) which has burned in the last two weeks is Mount Zion African Methodist Episcopal Church in Greeleyville, South Carolina. The fire, which happened on June 30th, has been attributed to lightning. Officials have specifically stated that there was “no criminal intent” involved in this incident.
While fire investigators and officials have determined several of these church burnings to be accidental and non-criminal in nature, many people looking on struggle to see how these events could possibly be disconnected. Given this country’s long history of racism and intimidation from hate groups like the KKK, it seems odd that there would be any question as to who is behind the burning of Black churches in the South. Some congregants and pastors of Black churches have spoken out concerned that this issue has not been addressed in a more material way by mainstream news outlets.
These are all of the documented cases of Black churches burnings as of July 5th. This story will be updated as additional information becomes available.
Photo Credit: CLAREDON COUNTY FIRE DEPARTMENT VIA TWITTER