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.


Often referred to as Mother Emanuel, is a church in Charleston, South Carolina. Founded in 1816, Emanuel AME is the oldest African Methodist Episcopal church in the Southern United States, with the first independent black denomination in the United States as well as one of the oldest black congregations south of Baltimore.


On June 17, 2015, nine people were shot and killed inside the church. The victims included Clementa Pinckney, Cynthia Hurd, Depayne Middleton-Doctor, Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Susie Jackson, Myra Thompson, Tywanza Sanders, Ethel Lance, and Daniel Simmons. A 21-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. Pinckney, as well as eight congregation members, were killed in the attack. According to the FBI, the shooter left a manifesto detailing his racist views before the shooting. The Rev. Dr. Norvel Goff, Sr. served as the interim pastor from June 17, 2015, until early 2016. On January 23, 2016, The Rev. Dr. Betty Deas Clark, was appointed pastor. She was the first woman to lead the congregation in its 200-year existence. In June of 2016, the Rev. Eric S.C. Manning became Pastor, and currently serves the people of Mother Emanuel.


Emanuel AME Church has one of the few well-preserved historic church interiors in the area, with original features including the altar, communion rail, pews, and light fixtures. In December 2014, the church publicized fundraising to build an elevator to make the building more accessible. A pipe organ was installed in 1902. The church has a capacity of 2,500, making it among Charleston’s largest black churches.