Mother Emanuel A.M.E. Church Unveils Plans for Memorial with Michael Arad

Charleston, SC – July 15, 2018 – Today architect Michael Arad revealed design plans for a permanent memorial honoring the victims of the Emanuel Nine tragedy. Arad, the architect behind the National September 11 Memorial in New York, conveyed his inspiration for the Emanuel Nine Memorial at Mother Emanuel A.M.E. Church following a ceremony celebrating the church’s 200th anniversary. 

The memorial honors the nine victims and five survivors of the June 17, 2015 tragedy, the largest racially motivated mass murder in recent American history. Located on church grounds, the memorial features a courtyard with two fellowship benches, facing each other with high backs that arc up and around like sheltering wings. At the center of the courtyard, the curves of the benches encircle a marble fountain where the names of the Emanuel Nine are carved around the fountain’s edge. Water emanates from a cross-shaped source, filling the basin and gently spilling over the names of the nine. The opening between the benches toward the back of the courtyard reveals a cross above a simple altar, providing visitors a quiet place to linger in thought and prayer. 

The memorial includes a survivors’ garden, which is accessed by a pathway from the courtyard. Dedicated to life and resiliency, the garden is surrounded by six stone benches and five trees, symbolizing the five survivors – the sixth signifying that the church is also a survivor.


  • The design reminds me of so many different things. It reminds me sometimes of a ship for enslaved people who were going to freedom. Sometimes it reminds me of the wings of angels. Sometimes it reminds me just of the arms of God. – Dudley Gregorie, Charleston City Council and Mother Emanuel A.M.E. church member 
  • The inspiration for this memorial draws on Mother Emanuel A.M.E. Church as a historic place and as a congregation. Throughout its 200-year history, it has endured slavery, discrimination and racism. When worship and assembly were banned, the church resisted and provided a place of fellowship and sanctuary. The Emanuel Nine tragedy marks another dark moment for the church, though faith helped to heal and bring light into the darkness. – Michael Arad
  • This memorial will honor the Emanuel Nine and celebrate the grace in forgiveness from the victims’ families, spirit of resiliency shown by the survivors, church members, the community of Charleston and the world by coming together as one. Ultimately it will inspire people and communities everywhere to rise above racism and overcome hate with love. – Reverend Eric S.C. Manning, pastor of Mother Emanuel A.M.E Church
  • The incredible response from the families, church and the community has already altered the conversation about racism. They put faith and love above hatred, and the message inspired people across the globe. – John Darby, CEO of The Beach Company and co-chair of the memorial’s executive committee

To contribute to the Emanuel Nine Memorial, please visit: 

For more information about Mother Emanuel AME Church, visit 

About the Emanuel Nine and the Survivors

Nine extraordinary individuals were taken from this world in a horrific act of hatred on June 17, 2015: Rev. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Mrs. Cynthia Graham Hurd, Mrs. Susie J. Jackson, Mrs. Ethel Lee Lance, Rev. DePayne Vontrese Middleton, The Honorable Rev. Clementa C. Pinckney, Mr. Tywanza Kibwe Diop Sanders, Rev. Daniel Lee Simmons, Sr., and Mrs. Myra Singleton Quarles Thompson, AME Licentiate. Survivors of the massacre are Mrs. Jennifer Pinckney, Malana Pinckney, Mrs. Polly Sheppard and Mrs. Felicia Sanders and her granddaughter.

About the Mother Emanuel Memorial Foundation Board

The Mother Emanuel Memorial Foundation Board was established as an independent 501(c)(3) organization to support the mission of the Emanuel Nine Memorial. The Board manages the fundraising, construction, endowment, and outreach for the memorial.  

About Mother Emanuel A.M.E. Church

The roots of MEAMEC run deep in Charleston and its history is one of perseverance in the face of racial hostility. The church is affectionately called Mother Emanuel because it is the oldest A.M.E. church south of Baltimore.

The congregation first formed in 1791, a coalition of free blacks and slaves. In 1818, the church joined the A.M.E. connection. In 1822, the church was burned to the ground, after plans for a slave revolt were exposed. The congregation rebuilt the church and met there until 1834 — when all black churches were outlawed by the state legislature. Undeterred, members continued to meet in secret until the end of the Civil War in 1865, when they formally reorganized.

They adopted the name ‘Emanuel,’ meaning “God with us.” At the time, the church was a wooden two-story structure, and was destroyed in an earthquake in 1886. Once again, it was rebuilt. During the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, Mother Emanuel was the location for many of the meetings held by Martin Luther King, Jr. and others.  Today, MEAMEC continues to have a national and international reputation for forgiveness and grace.

With seating for 1,200, Mother Emanuel has the largest seating capacity of any African-American church in Charleston. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1985.

About Michael Arad

Michael Arad’s design for the National September 11 Memorial at the World Trade Center site, titled “Reflecting Absence,” was selected by the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation from among more than 5,000 entries submitted in an international competition held in 2003. The project was designed with landscape architect Peter Walker, and the support of the architectural firm Davis Brody Bond, LLP. Arad joined Handel Architects as a partner in 2004 where he worked on realizing the memorial design as a member of the firm. A native of Israel, Arad was raised there, in the United Kingdom, United States and Mexico. In 2006, Arad was one of six recipients of the Young Architects Award of the American Institute of Architects. In 2012, he was awarded the AIA Presidential Citation for his work on the National September 11 Memorial. In addition, he was also honored in 2012 by the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council with the Liberty Award for Artistic Leadership. In 2013, his work on the Memorial was recognized with Honor Awards from the AIA and ASLA.

Media Contact:

Lou Hammond Group

Kelsey Donnelly


Mother Emanuel Memorial Foundation Contact: 

Karen Bacot

843-277-3093 (o) / 843-609-7433 (c)