Black churches in the South reportedly targeted by arsonists
Six predominantly black churches in various cities in the South caught fire this week, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Three of the fires have been confirmed as cases of arson, two were likely accidental, and authorities are still investigating the cause of another.
The College Hills Seventh Day Adventist Church in Knoxville, Tennessee erupted into flames early Monday morning. The Knoxville Fire Department said an arsonist deliberately set fires in multiple locations around the church, according to local news station WATE.
— WATE 6 On Your Side (@6News) June 22, 2015
The next day, a church in Macon, Georgia that has been the target of burglaries in the past was set on fire as well.
God’s Power Church of Christ caught fire on Tuesday morning. TheMacon-Bibb County Fire Department told media that their investigation has confirmed the fire was set deliberately.
— Claire Davis (@rclairedavis) June 23, 2015
— 13WMAZ News (@13wmaznews) June 26, 2015
Early Wednesday, the Briar Creek Baptist Church in Charlotte, North Carolina was found engulfed in flames, resulting in an estimated $250,000 in damage, according to the Associated Press. Firefighters determined the blaze was also purposefully set.
— Ronnie Glassberg (@ronnieglassberg) June 26, 2015
The Glover Grove Missionary Baptist Church in Warrenville, South Carolina was destroyed by fire early Friday morning. State authorities and the FBI are both looking for a cause, the AP reported.
The historically black church in Warrenville was a two and a half hour drive from charleston’s African Methodist Episcopal Church, where nine were killed on June 17.
— Aiken Standard (@aikenstandard) June 27, 2015
— Aiken Standard (@aikenstandard) June 26, 2015
The Fruitland Presbyterian Church in Gibson County, Tennessee burned down Wednesday, potentially due to lightning, though the cause is still under investigation, and the Greater Miracle Temple Apostolic Holiness Church in Tallahassee, Florida burned on Friday because of a downed electrical wire, local news stations reported.
Arson attacks on black churches became more frequent in the mid-to-late 1900s. Congress passed a law in 1996 that heightened the punishment for arson of a religious organization. The Atlantic chronicled this period of violence in an article written following the June 17 attack in Charleston.
A manifesto that was allegedly penned by Dylan Roof, the shooter in the attack at Charleston’s African Methodist Episcopal Church, said that Roof specifically chose the city because of its rich black history.
Mother Emanuel itself was burned to the ground by white supremacists in 1822.