Reconstructed: Keep the Faith, Baby

On June 17, 2015, a white extremist shot and killed nine Black people in the Mother Emanuel AME church in Charleston, South Carolina as they gathered for a bible study group. 

This wasn’t the first time Mother Emanuel had been attacked. Church historian Elizabeth Alston tells Trymaine Lee, that in the 1820s, white people burned down Mother Emanuel in retaliation over a failed slave rebellion. For years, the congregation was forced to meet in secret. But through all the violence and backlash, the Black congregants relied on their faith, and during Reconstruction, they rebuilt. 

Mother Emanuel’s history mirrors the story of Black America. Through the centuries, faith has helped Black people find freedom, community, and strength, even in the face of violence.

In episode three of ‘Reconstructed,’ Into America explores the legacy of faith through Reconstruction. Historian Kidada Williams shares testimonies of the devastating violence and terrorism that white people inflicted upon their Black neighbors. And Spencer Crew, co-curator of the National Museum of African American History and Culture’s exhibit on Reconstruction, explains how faith and the church were vital to the survival of newly freed people. 

This tradition of faith in the face of backlash holds true today. Trymaine talks with Bree Newsome Bass, whose incredible protest of scaling a 30-foot pole to take down the Confederate flag from the South Carolina state capitol made her an icon of the movement. Bree’s actions led to the permanent removal of the Confederate flag from the state house. And she tells Trymaine that faith was the foundation of it all.

For a transcript, please visit

Thoughts? Feedback? Story ideas? Write to us at

Further Reading and Listening: 

Editors’ note: This episode was originally published incorrectly naming the location of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing as Montgomery, Alabama. The correct location is Birmingham. The piece has been updated.

2356 232

Suggested Podcasts

Hannah Braniff | Cross Stitcher and Creator at Hannah Hand Makes

Chris a Rosie Ramsey

London Review Bookshop

Back to Reality

Sully Baseball

Boot Krewe Media

Alice Morrison

KCRW, Allison Behringer