Mount Zion African Methodist Episcopal Church, a prominent African-American church in Greeleyville, S.C., caught fire late Tuesday. It is the eighth black church in the Southern U.S. to burn in 10 days.
Officials have started to investigate the burning of the churches as arson but As flames engulfed Mount Zion AME Church, a predominantly African American congregation in the tiny town of Greeleyville, social media lit up with expressions of sorrow, speculation and outrage. According to the Washington Post:
The fire was one of six at black churches in the past two weeks, three of which are being investigated as arsons, and one of hundreds, possibly thousands, in the past two centuries.
The cause of Tuesday’s blaze and the others remain uncertain, although the AP, quoting an unnamed federal source, reported Wednesday morning that “preliminary indications” suggested it was not an arson. Still, along with earlier fires since the massacre at Charleston’s Emanuel AME Church, the blazes evoked a painful history, some of it recent, that still haunts African American congregations.
Just hours before the Mount Zion fire broke out, the NAACP warned black churches to “take necessary precautions” against the threat of attack. And federal law enforcement officials are now automatically investigating all such fires at black churches to see if they are hate crimes.
And while they may or may not indeed be hate crimes or even arsons, the fact that these are the first things that come to mind when a black church burns — a half century after the Jim Crow era — remains haunting, particularly in the wake of the mass shooting at Emanuel AME Church, which is being treated as a hate crime.
All over Black twitter the hastag #whoisburningblackchurches dominates the feed. We’ll keep you posted on these ratched acts of terrorism.