The African Methodist Episcopal Church, usually called the A.M.E. Church, is a predominantly African-American Methodist denomination based in the United States. It is the oldest independent Protestant denomination founded by black people in the world. It was founded by the Rt. Rev. Richard Allen in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1816 from several black Methodist congregations in the mid-Atlantic area that wanted independence from white Methodists. Allen was consecrated its first bishop in 1816. It began with 8 clergy and 5 churches, and by 1846 had grown to 176 clergy, 296 churches, and 17,375 members. The 20,000 members in 1856 were located primarily in the North. AME national membership (including probationers and preachers) jumped from 70,000 in 1866 to 207,000 in 1876.


Emanuel, often referred to as Mother Emanuel, was founded in 1818. It is the oldest African Methodist Episcopal Church south of Baltimore, Maryland. The African Methodist Episcopal Church is the first independent black denomination in the United States.


OOn June 17, 2015, nine members of the congregation were shot and killed inside the church. The victims included the Reverend Clementa C. Pinckney, Cynthia Graham Hurd, the Reverend Depayne Middleton-Doctor, the Reverend Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Susie Jackson, Myra Thompson, Tywanza Sanders, Ethel Lance, and the Reverend Daniel Simmons Sr. Five members survived the massacre. The survivors were Polly Sheppard, Felicia Sanders, and Sanders’ granddaughter, along with Jennifer Pinckney and her daughter. A twenty-one-year-old white male was arrested shortly afterward and charged with nine counts of murder. The killings were investigated by law enforcement officials as a possible hate crime. According to the FBI, the shooter left a manifesto detailing his racist views before the shooting.

The Reverend Dr. Norvel Goff Sr. served as the interim pastor from June 17, 2015, until January, 2016. On January 23, 2016, the Reverend Dr. Betty Deas Clark was appointed pastor. She was the first woman to lead the congregation in its 200-year history. On June 21, 2016, the Reverend Eric S. C. Manning became pastor and currently serves the congregation of Mother Emanuel.


Mother Emanuel AME Church is one of the few well-preserved historic church interiors in the area, with original features including the altar, communion rail, pews, and light fixtures. The construction of the present structure started in the spring of 1891 and was completed in the spring of 1892. The pipe organ was installed in 1908. The church has a capacity of 1,123 making it among Charleston’s largest black churches. In December 2013, the church publicized a fundraising campaign to build an elevator to make the building more accessible. The elevator was completed and dedicated in 2016.