The burning and bombing of Black churches (1822- ) has a long history in the US. It has sometimes been used as an instrument of White racist terror. There have been waves of church burnings:
- after the Civil War,
- during the civil rights movement,
- the 1990s and,
- just last week.
- June 21st 2015 – College Hill Seventh Day Adventist in Knoxville, Tennessee
- June 23rd 2015 – God’s Power Church of Christ in Macon Georgia
- June 23rd 2015 – Fruitland Presbyterian Church in Gibson County, Tennessee
- June 24th 2015 – Briar Creek Road Baptist Church in Charlotte, North Carolina
- June 26th 2015 – Glover Baptist Church in Warrenville, South Carolina
- June 26th 2015 – Greater Miracle Temple Apostolic Holiness Church in Tallahassee, Florida
Of these, two seem to be an accident while at least three seem to be arson. No one was hurt – they mostly took place in the middle of the night.
For comparison, during this same period only one fire took place at a non-Black church: the College Heights Baptist Church in Elyria, Ohio.
The authorities have not (yet) ruled any of these a hate crime. That is generally hard to prove – mainly because most arsonists are never caught. There are no suspects so far in last week’s arsons.
Given the timing – just after the Charleston massacre and during a week in which there were calls to take down the Confederate battle flag at the South Carolina capitol – it seems likely that some were hate crimes.
Last November Michael Brown’s father’s church was burned.
The first recorded Black church burning was in 1822: the Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina – the very church that was the scene of the Charleston Massacre.
After the Civil War and during the civil rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s, the Klan and other Whites bombed and burned Black churches as acts of terrorism. Black churches during these periods were staging grounds for organizing Blacks to demand equal rights.
According to civil rights historian Taylor Branch, during the 1950s and 1960s Black churches were being bombed almost every week. In Mississippi during the Freedom Summer of 1964, churches were burned almost every other day.
The most infamous case was in 1963: the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birminghma, Alabama, which left four Black girls dead.
In the 1990s there was another wave of Black church burnings. Some White churches were burned too, but most were Black, even though the US is only 13% Black.
At that time Black churches were not a hotbed of protest for equal rights. Many of those burned had rarely organized anything more than a church supper.
Of those arsonists who were caught, tried and found guilty, only 23% were found guilty of a hate crime. Because of plea bargains and the difficulty in proving hate, the actual number was probably higher. Few, though, belonged to hate groups.
The most infamous church arsonist of the 1990s was Jay Scott Ballinger. In 1998 and 1999 he burned 50 churches across the South and in the Midwest. He was part of – a satanic cult that burned down churches.
– Abagond, 2015.
Update (July 1st): Last night another Black church was burned, the Mount Zion AME Church in Greeleyville, South Carolina. This very same church was burned by the Klan in 1995.
Update (October 24th): Since October 8th at least five Black churches and one mixed church have been burned, all of them not far from Ferguson.
- White American terrorists
- The Confederate flag
- Michael Brown – Ferguson II
- Black Spring