Officials on Wednesday confirmed at least nine people died after a lone gunman opened fire inside a church in Charleston, South Carolina. The site of the horrific attack is Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, one of the oldest and largest black churches in the United State and oldest AME church in the South. And if you needed another reason for why the church is a significant target, this photo of Martin Luther King Jr. at Emanuel AME shows just how rich the church's history is and why the Charleston church shooting is a significant one in the black community. Update: Police confirmed Thursday that six women and three men were killed in the shooting. Three people also survived.
The King Center, a nonprofit that honors Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and was set up by his wife Coretta Scott King in 1968, tweeted an archived photo of the civil rights leader sitting inside Emanuel AME. MLK was one of the greatest social activists of modern times, and any place graced by his presence holds a significant place in history. In the photo, King is seen sitting behind the pulpit where a man is speaking during what appears to be a sermon. King advocated for peaceful protest and nonviolent civil disobedience, which makes the gunman's decision to attack Emanuel AME even more haunting.
According to the church's website, Emanuel AME was founded in 1816 and has been at the city's center for civil rights over the decades. According to the Washington Post, King once led a rally at "Mother Emanuel" about voting rights to make the "American dream a reality." The church also hosted NAACP Executive Secretary Roy Wilkins, who called for integration of the city's libraries. King's wife Coretta led a Charleston march from the church's steps, passing 1,000 state troopers and national guardsmen. In 1909, Booker T. Washington spoke at Emanuel AME to an audience of both blacks and whites.
The investigation is ongoing, and police are actively looking for the shooter. One of the victims killed have been identified by local community leaders and multiple reports as the church's pastor, Clementa Pinckney. Officials released surveillance photos from the church showing the suspected gunman: a young white male with sandy blonde hair and a height of 5 feet 9 inches, wearing a gray sweater and dark pants. He is being described as armed and dangerous, and anyone with information is being encouraged to reach out to police.
Image: Charleston Police Department