by Bob Smietana
The suspect in the shooting, identified as 21-year-old Dylann Storm Roof, reportedly attended the evening Bible study for an hour before opening fire, according to CNN.
Among those killed was Clementa C. Pinckney, the pastor of "Mother Emanuel" and a South Carolina state legislator, as well as Cynthia Hurd, a well-loved local librarian.
The attack follows a long history of violence against African American churches, said Valerie Cooper, associate professor of black church studies at Duke University.
“Particularly during the 20th century, burning black churches was a way to try to intimidate blacks seeking increased political or economic power since the churches so often functioned as the hub of civil rights organizing,” said Cooper. “The bombing of 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963, and the subsequent death of four little girls who were there for Sunday school, shocked the nation with the violent lengths to which racists would go to disrupt and destroy black churches, and by extension, black communities.”
Cooper sends her students to visit African American churches on Wednesday nights, where they often find a warm welcome. Roof would have been greeted with open arms, said Cooper. His attack was a betrayal of the hospitality churches show to visitors...