Who Is Burning Black Churches? Here’s What We Know

Days after the killing of nine people at a Charleston, S.C., church, six predominantly black churches in the South have burned, with at least three caused by arson.

ABC News screenshot

Since the June 17 killing of nine people at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., six predominantly black churches in the South have burned in the past week, including one on Tuesday, causing many on social media to wonder #WhoIsBurningBlackChurches. (Fires have also hit two other churches—College Heights Baptist Church in Ohio and Fruitland Presbyterian Church in Tennessee—but neither is predominantly black.) As of right now, three fires at black churches in three states—Tennessee, Georgia and North Carolina—have been confirmed as arson. Here’s what we know so far:

Mount Zion African Methodist Episcopal Church, Greeleyville, S.C., June 30

On Tuesday, fire crews from two counties needed four hours to put out a fire at the historic black church, according to the Washington Post. On Thursday, investigators said the fire was most likely started by natural causes and that “no criminal intent was found,” according NBC News. This isn’t the first time Mount Zion has burned. In June 1995, the church building was set on fire and two white men with ties to the Ku Klux Klan were arrested, according to the Post.

The Greater Miracle Temple Apostolic Holiness Church, Tallahassee, Fla., June 26

Officials say that the fire was caused by electrical wires that were exposed when a tree fell, but a state investigation is ongoing, according to the Tallahassee Democrat. Jacob Henderson Jr., the son of pastor Jacob Henderson Sr., received a number of calls at 5:15 a.m. Friday saying that the church was burning. Ironically, a marquee in front of the church from a revival more than two months ago still read, “Call 911! This church is on fire.” Henderson told the Tallahassee Democrat, “We got such a large positive feedback from the sign that we kept it up for a while.” Tallahassee Fire Department spokesman Capt. Mike Bellamy said that the fire caused $700,000 in damages.

Glover Grove Baptist Church, Warrenville, S.C., June 26