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Last week we traced the history of the African Methodist Episcopal Church from its origins in 1787 to how it has expanded into the church of today. In light of the tragic events that shocked the nation when a gunman killed nine people attending Bible study at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, the connections within the denomination are personal and deeply rooted for me.
On today’s show I will go back and trace my AME roots that originate from the mid 1800s and share my American story so intertwined with our cultural past. From Georgia to Baltimore to the Midwest, the East Coast and around the United States, my family represents the essence of the AME Church. Faith, Education, Heritage and Family Reunions are the core ingredients that make my family so special to me.
I will also be joined by cousins Theresa Johnson and Keith Williams who will share their knowledge on how our Gaines Family Reunion started back in the 1980s. The legacy of the Gaines/Charleston/Bachelor families is the legacy of family ties embedded in the AME Church.
More Details About My Family:
My grandfather, Rev. James A. Charleston built the present site of St. Paul AME -Detroit and paid for it before dying in the pulpit in June 1961.
Rev. Charleston’s mother, Sarah Gaines Charleston was the wife of an AME minister and was the niece of Bishop Wesley John Gaines. Bishop Gaines was one of the founders of Morris Brown College (my grandmother’s alma mater). He also wrote 2-3 books before his death.
Rev. Charleston’s brother, Dr. Samuel P. Charleston was a celebrated principal of the segregated Carver High School in Columbus, Georgia and a lifelong AME. When he died at the age of 95 in 1999, the city designated him one of the top 100 citizens of the 20th Century.
Bishop Wesley John Gaines’ nephew was Bishop Abraham Lincoln Gaines.
The Gaines Family in Baltimore were closely linked to Thurgood Marshall’s family and Bishop Vashti Murphy McKenzie’s Family. My cousin, Josephine Gaines, just died in July (right before our family reunion) at the age of 86. She as the last living grandchild of Bishop Abraham Lincoln Gaines.
We have an extensive family tree that has been meticulously researched by my cousin Clarence Gaines in Chicago.
Another ancestor, Rev. William Gaines, was part of a ministerial delegation during important meeting with Major General William Tecumseh Sherman in Savannah, Georgia in January 12, 1865. Here is a link to the transcript of that meeting:
My family is FILLED with AME Ministers!!!
Here is an excerpt from the 1865 meeting describing my ancestor who attended:
6. William Gaines, aged forty-one years, born in Wills County, Ga.; slave "until the Union forces freed me;" owned by Robert Toombs, formerly U.S. Senator, and his brother, Gabriel Toombs; local preacher of the Methodist Episcopal Church (Andrew's Chapel); in the ministry sixteen years.
Radio Broadcast for More Information About The Gaines Family Reunion:
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June is always a hard month for me and my family. The tragic accidental death of my son, Mickarl D. Thomas, Jr. on June 14, 1997 still leaves a void in my heart too painful for many to understand. His death was the result of a single occupant fatal car accident after drinking at a party, days after graduating from high school with his twin sister. That was 18 years ago, but the memories are still vivid in my mind.
Tragedy is hard to comprehend…whether it’s accidental or intentional. It leaves a trail of tears in the wake of surviving victims, family members and friends often left behind.
The latest tragedy occurred last night when worshippers at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church were simply exercising their right to attend Bible Study in the House of God. For nine of them, including the Pastor of the church, it would be their last day on earth, as they were murdered by a hateful young man bent on ending their lives for his own personal satisfaction.
What do you do when the answers don’t come from such tragedies? How do you console family members and friends whose unbearable pain can be difficult to watch? What do you say when the words are too cumbersome?
Today’s show will offer some responses to life’s tragedies from my personal perspective, having lived all of these years in the wake of my son’s death.
Biographical Profile of Reverend Honorable Clementa C. Pinckney
Slain Pastor of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, Charleston, South Carolina
There is incomplete information as the police will only give partial details on this tragic event. On Wednesday June 17, 2015 a lone White gunman sat with members of the congregation during Bible Study before opening fire and killing nine people, including the Pastor.
Pray for the families and those impacted by this terrible crime. 9 DEAD...including the Pastor The Reverend Honorable Clementa C. Pinckney. The Police Chief has now called this a HATE CRIME.
The shooter was caught on Thursday June 18th in Shelby, North Carolina. He is 21 year old white supremacist Dylann Storm Roof. The gun used was given to him by his father as a birthday gift.
Rev. Pinckney's Biography
The Reverend Honorable Clementa C. Pinckney was born July 30, 1973 the son of Mr. John Pinckney and the late Theopia Stevenson Pinckney of Ridgeland, South Carolina. He was educated in the public schools of Jasper County. He is a magna cum laude graduate of Allen University with a degree in Business Administration. While there, Reverend Pinckney served as freshman class president, student body president, and senior class president. Ebony Magazine recognized Rev. Pinckney as one the "Top College Students in America". During his junior year, he received a Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson Summer Research Fellowship in the fields of public policy and international affairs. He received a graduate fellowship to the University of South Carolina where he earned a Master's degree in public administration. He completed a Master's of Divinity from the Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary.
Rev. Pinckney answered the call to preach at the age of thirteen and received his first appointment to pastor at the age of eighteen. He has served the following charges: Young's Chapel-Irmo, The Port Royal Circuit, Mount Horr-Yonges Island, Presiding Elder of the Wateree District and Campbell Chapel, Bluffton. He serves as the pastor of historic Mother Emanuel A.M.E. in Charleston, South Carolina.
Rev. Pinckney was elected to the South Carolina House of Representatives in 1996 at the age of twenty-three. In 2000, he was elected to the State Senate at the age of twenty-seven. He is one of the youngest persons and the youngest African-American in South Carolina to be elected to the State Legislature. He represents Jasper, Beaufort, Charleston, Colleton, and Hampton Counties. His committee assignments include Senate Finance, Banking and Insurance, Transportation, Medical Affairs and Corrections and Penology. Washington Post columnist, David Broder, called Rev. Pinckney a "political spirit lifter for suprisingly not becoming cynical about politics."
Rev. Pinckney has served in other capacities in the state to include a college trustee and corporate board member. In May 2010, he delivered the Commencement Address for the Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary.
He and his wife Jennifer had two children - Eliana and Malana.
History of Mother Emanuel AME Church
The history of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church reflects the development of religious institutions for African Americans in Charleston. Dating back to the fall of 1787 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Richard Allen founded the Free African Society, adhering to the Doctrines of Methodism established by John Wesley. In 1816, black members of Charleston's Methodist Episcopal church withdrew over disputed burial ground, and under the leadership of Morris Brown. The Rev. Morris Brown organized a church of persons of color and sought to have it affiliated with Allen's church. Three churches arose under the Free African Society and were named the "Bethel Circuit". One of the Circuit churches was located in the suburbs of Ansonborough, Hampstead, and Cow Alley, now known as Philadelphia Alley in the French Quarters of Charleston. Emanuel's congregation grew out of the Hampstead Church, located at Reid and Hanover Streets.
In 1822 the church was investigated for its involvement with a planned slave revolt. Denmark Vesey, one of the church's founders, organized a major slave uprising in Charleston. Vesey was raised in slavery in the Virgin Islands among newly imported Africans. He was the personal servant of slavetrader Captain Joseph Vesey, who settled in Charleston in 1783. Beginning in December 1821, Vesey began to organize a slave rebellion, but authorities were informed of the plot before it could take place. The plot created mass hysteria throughout the Carolinas and the South. Brown, suspected but never convicted of knowledge of the plot, went north to Philadelphia where he eventually became the second bishop of the AME denomination.
During the Vesey controversy, the AME church was burned. Worship services continued after the church was rebuilt until 1834 when all black churches were outlawed. The congregation continued the tradition of the African church by worshipping underground until 1865 when it was formally reorganized, and the name Emanuel was adopted, meaning "God with us". The wooden two-story church that was built on the present site in 1872 was destroyed by the devastating earthquake of August 31, 1886. The present edifice was completed in 1891 under the pastorate of the Rev. L. Ruffin Nichols. The magnificent brick structure with encircling marble panels was restored, redecorated and stuccoed during the years of 1949-51 under the leadership of the Rev. Frank R. Veal. The bodies of the Rev. Nichols and his wife were exhumed and entomed in the base of the steeple so that they may forever be with the Emanuel that they helped to nurture.
For more information visit the church website: www.emanuelamechurch.org
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Carole Copeland Thomas is a 27 year speaker, trainer and consultant specializing in global diversity, empowerment, multiculturalism and leadership issues.