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Biden First President to Preach Politics From Pulpit at Mother Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston

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Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., the oldest A.M.E. church in the South, will forever be associated with former President Barack Obama because of his memorable — and melodic — eulogy for the nine victims of a racist massacre in its fellowship hall in June 2015.

But it is Joseph R. Biden Jr. who became the first sitting president to speak at the storied church, when he delivered a campaign address there Monday about threats to American democracy, including those posed by political and hate-fueled violence.

Mr. Obama made his contemplative remarks about race, and warbled his way through “Amazing Grace,” not at the site on Calhoun Street that the congregation bought in 1865, but around the corner at a college arena. But Mr. Biden spoke as president in the creaky old sanctuary itself, backed by towering stained glass one floor above the scene of the blood bath, a setting that conveyed a mosaic of messages as he sought to re-energize his African American base.

Mr. Biden is far from the first to make a political case from Emanuel’s pulpit. His predecessors included Booker T. Washington in 1909, W.E.B. Du Bois in 1922 and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1962.

The church’s founding pastor, the Rev. Richard Harvey Cain, used it as a springboard to Congress during Reconstruction. Its civil rights-era pastor, the Rev. Benjamin J. Glover, simultaneously led the local N.A.A.C.P. and staged anti-discrimination marches from its steps. The Rev. Clementa C. Pinckney, the pastor who welcomed 21-year-old Dylann Roof into Bible study and was first shot by him, also was a long-tenured state senator, the youngest African American elected to South Carolina’s Legislature.

The Biden campaign’s choice of Emanuel was intended to show common cause with Black voters, who polls suggest have lost a measure of enthusiasm for the president. South Carolina, where African Americans make up about 60 percent of the Democratic electorate, hosts the party’s first-in-the-nation primary on Feb. 3.

Continue reading at THE NEW YORK TIMES

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Faithfully Magazine is a fresh, bold and exciting news and culture publication that covers issues, conversations and events impacting Christian communities of color.


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