The Charleston Chronicle

College of Charleston Announces Series to Address Racial Violence Targeting African American Churches

“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 (IAAM). Over the next eighteen months, the College will host various events to promote dialogue about race and social justice in Charleston, South Carolina, and beyond.

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 September 14th and 15th to examine the history of racial violence targeting African American churches. These programs will particularly reflect on the historic connections between the 1963 bombing at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, AL, and the 2015 shootings at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC. 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 is an open community forum held on Tuesday, September 15th at the Burke High School Auditorium at 6:30pm, with doors opening at 6:00pm. 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 September 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 6:00pm to honor the victims and survivors of these tragedies.

Prior to this forum, on Monday, September 14th, the College of Charleston will host a screening of Spike Lee's Academy Award-nominated documentary,4 Little Girls (1997), at Addlestone Library in Room 227 at 6:00pm. 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. Dr. Jon Hale from the College of Charleston and Dr. Tracy Snipe from Wright State University will moderate the discussion after the film screening.

These events are free and open to the public.

Historic Background

On September 15, 1963, four Collins siblings planned to attend Sunday school at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, AL. Sarah Collins was in the church basement with her sister Addie Mae Collins (14), and her friends Denise McNair (11), Carole Robertson (14), and Cynthia Wesley (14), when dynamite planted by white supremacists in the Ku Klux Klan exploded and killed four of the young women. Unlike her sister and peers, Sarah survived the bombing. That same day, two young African American males, Johnny Robinson (16) and Virgil Ware (13), were killed amidst tensions in the aftermath of the church bombing. Ware was killed by a white teenager; Robinson was shot in the back by a white police officer.

"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."

Event coordinator Dr. Tracy Snipe is a Charleston native now with Wright State University in Dayton, OH, and is currently completing a biography of Sarah Collins Rudolph, entitled The Fifth Girl: Sole Survivor of the 16th Street Bombing, and a biography of Junie Collins Williams, entitled Saving the Best Wine for Last: Remembrances of the 16th St. Bombing.

For more information about these events, contact Jon Hale ([email protected]), Tracy Snipe ([email protected]) or College of Charleston Libraries (843-953-8002).

Google Grant Details:

Google, which has a data center located at the Mt. Holly Commerce Park in Berkeley County, committed $375,000 to the Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture, the Coastal Community Foundation's Lowcountry Unity Fund and the International African American Museum with the hopes that these resources will serve as a springboard for community conversations. Funds will also support the building of the International African American Museum, which will house programs to shed light on these issues. The grant recipients will collaborate to provide the pedagogy, insight and leadership to stimulate dialogue and community change.

Community Forum: "Ties That Bind Two Holy Cities: Reflections in Charleston by Survivors of the 1963 Birmingham Church Bombing”

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Burke High School Auditorium

244 President Street, Charleston SC

6:30pm, doors open at 6:00pm

Free and open to the public

Film Screening: 4 Little Girls, directed by Spike Lee

Monday, September 14, 2015

College of Charleston Addlestone Library

205 Calhoun St., Charleston, SC

Room 227


Free and open to the public

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