The Manning Times is retelling a historical story each week during Black History Month. This week, the story is about the Macedonia Baptist Church, that suffered a horrible tragedy due to discrimination.
Under the cover of darkness on June 21, 1995, gasoline was poured. It covered the floor of Macedonia Baptist Church in Clarendon County. The centuries old, historically African-American church was then set ablaze as members of the Klu-Klux- Klan stood by and watched their work destroy the church completely.
Although the brick and mortar was destroyed, the church members' faith and perseverance kept the real foundation of the church strong. With encouragement from the Pastor and elders within the church, a civil suit was filed against Timothy Adron Welch, Gary Christopher Cox, Arthur Haley, and Hubert Rowell, all of whom were associated with the Christian Knights of the Klu Klux Klan. Between thirty and forty members of Macedonia Baptist Church attended the trial every day.
The case went before a jury of three white jurors and nine African American jurors. They deliberated for only forty-five minutes before returning a verdict that forced the Klan to surrender the land where their headquarters stood and originally ordered to pay 37.8 million dollars. The amount was later reduced to 21.5 million dollars. A deed was issued for the land where the headquarters stood that included a restriction that the land must never be used for white supremacist activities again. The verdict exceeded what was asked in the original lawsuit by ten million dollars.
At the time, this was the nation's largest civil award for damages related to a hate crime. There were many church burnings across the South around the time Macedonia Baptist was set ablaze, including Mount Zion AME Church in Greeleyville. During a time when the South had made strides in race relations, the church burnings showed that much more needed to be done in order to improve race relations in the South.
Upon the burning of the church, the President of the United States at the time, William 'Bill' Clinton, made a visit to South Carolina and pledged federal funds to aid in the investigation of the crimes. The Macedonia Baptist church burning in rural Clarendon County brought national light to hate crimes in the nineties. Many of the congregation from the church endured death threats before and during the trial. Due to the recency of the church burning, individuals names have been purposely left out of this week's Black History article.
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