The Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church was the target of hate crime late Wednesday night.
Clementa Pinckney, 41, the pastor of the church and a Democratic State Senator, was among the victims. Mr Pinckney was an advocate for police officers to wear body cameras.
"The only reason someone would walk into a church and shoot people that were praying is out of hate," said Charleston Mayor Joe Riley. He described the scene as "the most heartbreaking I have ever witnessed in my life."
The storied church is one of the nation’s oldest black congregations. Denmark Vesey, the church’s co-founder, attempted to organise a major slave rebellion in 1822. When the plot was eventually discovered, 35 people were executed, and the church was eventually burned down, according to the church’s website. The building was eventually restored and worship services continued.
In 1834, all black churches were outlawed. However, the congregation continued to gather underground until 1865 when it was formally recognized as a place of worship.Reuse content