Obama sings hymn of hope in eu­logy for slain Charleston church mem­bers


Pres­i­dent Barack Obama sang a hymn of hope and spoke with the fer­vor of a preacher as he eu­lo­gized a pas­tor and eight parish­ioners gunned down at a his­toric black church in an ap­par­ent hate crime — and he minced no words in call­ing for an end to racial in­jus­tice and gun vi­o­lence in the United States.

In his eu­logy for the Rev. Cle­menta Pinck­ney, Obama sud­denly be­gan singing “Amaz­ing Grace,” quickly joined by min­is­ters and some of the thou­sands who packed into the arena at the Col­lege of Charleston in South Carolina.

The na­tion’s first black pres­i­dent called for gun con­trol and ef­forts to elim­i­nate poverty and job dis­crim­i­na­tion, and said the Con­fed­er­ate bat­tle flag — long a sym­bol of South­ern U.S. pride — must be re­moved from places of honor.

“For many — black and white — that flag was a re­minder of sys­temic op­pres­sion and racial sub­ju­ga­tion. We see that now,” he said.

The pres­i­dent came to eu­lo­gize the Rev. Cle­menta Pinck­ney, a state sen­a­tor and pas­tor of Emanuel, a church founded by the leader of a failed slave re­volt and burned to the ground by an­gry whites in 1822. Af­ter the Amer­i­can Civil War, the church led ef­forts to ex­pand equal rights in the South, host­ing civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. dur­ing cam­paigns in South Carolina.

The church will be the site of two more fu­ner­als for three other vic­tims on Satur­day.

“We do not know whether the killer of Rev. Pinck­ney and eight oth­ers knew all of this history,” the pres­i­dent said. “But he surely sensed the mean­ing of his vi­o­lent act. It was an act that drew on a long history of bombs and ar­sons and shots fired at churches; not ran­dom, but as a means of con­trol, a way to ter­ror­ize and op­press.”

“An act that he imag­ined would in­cite fear, and incrimination, vi­o­lence and sus­pi­cion. An act he pre­sumed would deepen di­vi­sions that trace back to our na­tion’s orig­i­nal sin,” Obama con­tin­ued, his voice ris­ing in the ca­dence of the preach­ers who pre­ceded him.

Fire against Racism, Gun


Obama spoke plainly about the ug­li­ness of Amer­ica’s racial history — from slav­ery to the many ways mi­nori­ties have been de­prived of equal rights in more re­cent times. Tak­ing down the Con­fed­er­ate flag is a right­eous step, “but God doesn’t want us to stop there,” he said.

Amer­i­cans should want to fight poverty with as much ef­fort as they fight hate, and re­al­ize that hate isn’t al­ways ob­vi­ous, he said, “so that we’re guard­ing against not just racial slurs, but we’re guard­ing against the sub­tle im­pulse to call Johnny back for a job in­ter­view, but not Ja­mal.”

The pres­i­dent wrapped up the four-hour fu­neral in song, belt­ing out the first words of “Amaz­ing Grace” all by him­self. Min­is­ters be­hind him quickly stood up and be­gan singing, too, and the choir and or­gan­ist and many in the au­di­ence of thou­sands joined in.

Slain along with Pinck­ney were Cyn­thia Hurd, 54; Ty­wanza San­ders, 26; Sharonda Sin­gle­ton, 45; Myra Thompson, 59; Ethel Lance, 70; Susie Jack­son, 87; and the Revs. Daniel Sim­mons Sr., 74, and DePayne Mid­dle­ton-Doc­tor, 49.

Obama named them one by one, shout­ing that each “found that grace!”

Amer­ica’s first black pres­i­dent sang the hymn less than a mile from where thou­sands of slaves were sold and where South Carolina signed its pact to leave the union a cen­tury and a half ear­lier.

Story con­tin­ues on page 2


U.S. Pres­i­dent Barack Obama sings “Amaz­ing Grace” dur­ing ser­vices honor­ing the life of Rev. Cle­menta Pinck­ney at the Col­lege of Charleston TD Arena in Charleston, South Carolina on Fri­day, June 26 .

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