Fire crews try to control a blaze at the Mt. Zion African Methodist Episcopal Church in Greeleyville, South Carolina in this handout photo
Fire crews try to control a blaze at the Mt. Zion African Methodist Episcopal Church in Greeleyville, S.C., on the night of June 30, 2015  Clarendon County Fire Department/Reuters

The Black-Church Fires in Southern States Are Not Connected, Authorities Say

Jul 03, 2015

Federal law-enforcement agencies have concluded that recent fires in black churches in the southeastern U.S. are unrelated.

"To date the investigations have not revealed any potential links between the fires," Justice Department spokeswoman Melanie Newman told Reuters.

The wave of fires began on June 21 with a fire at College Hill Seventh Day Adventist in Knoxville, Tenn., and continued across at least four states in the southeastern and central U.S. Three fires have been officially declared arson and at least two were deemed to have been the result of natural causes.

The most recent fire, at Mount Zion AME church in Greeleyville, S.C., on June 30, is among the latter. Investigators said they found no accelerants, one of the most common signs of arson, at the scene. A lightning-strike forensics report by CNN meteorologists shows four strikes close to the church, around 7 p.m.

"Investigators found no indicator of criminal intent," State Law Enforcement Department spokesperson Kathryn Richardson said in a statement. "The investigation is complete.”

Mount Zion has burned down before, set aflame by the KKK in 1995 as part of a string of 30 suspicious fires at black churches across the south. This kind of fraught history is the foundation of continuing suspicions regarding the church fires, activist-writer David Love told CNN.

"It may not be arson now," he said, "but people look at the cases where it actually did happen and feel, 'It could happen again.'"

[Reuters]

Martin Luther King Jr. and the Freedom Riders: Rare and Classic Photos

Julia Aaron and David Dennis, along with 25 other freedom riders and several members of the National Guard, travel from Montgomery, Ala., to Jackson, Miss.
Julia Aaron and David Dennis, along with 25 other freedom riders and several members of the National Guard, travel from Montgomery, Ala., to Jackson, Miss.Paul Schutzer—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
Julia Aaron and David Dennis, along with 25 other freedom riders and several members of the National Guard, travel from Montgomery, Ala., to Jackson, Miss.
Just shy of the Mississippi-Alabama border, members of the Alabama National Guard surround a bus carrying freedom riders.
A freedom rider and member of the National Guard on a bus in the Deep South.
The view from a bus window on a freedom ride.
Freedom riders peer from bus windows during a stop.
A congregation in Alabama prays for the safety of freedom riders.
Freedom riders sing at the Rev. Ralph Abernathy's First Baptist Church in Montgomery, Ala., as a white mob gathers outside.
A weary Martin Luther King Jr. sits at the Rev. Ralph Abernathy's First Baptist Church in Montgomery, Ala., as a white mob surrounds the building.
Freedom riders try to rest at the Rev. Ralph Abernathy's First Baptist Church in Montgomery, Ala., as a white mob gathers outside.
After U.S. Attorney General Robert Kennedy intervened, forcing Alabama Governor John Patterson to declare martial law and send in the National Guard, the white mob outside First Baptist Church finally broke up. Before dawn on May 22, 1961, the Guard moved the congregation out.
Freedom riders rescued from First Baptist Church relax at a safe house in Montgomery, Ala.
Freedom riders rescued from First Baptist Church (including John Lewis, with bandaged head) relax at a safe house in Montgomery, Ala.
Freedom riders, along with Martin Luther King Jr., relax at a safe house in Montgomery, Ala.
At a safe house in Montgomery, Ala., freedom riders relax after being rescued from First Baptist Church.
At a safe house in Montgomery, Ala., freedom riders pray after being rescued from First Baptist Church.
Freedom riders wait to board a bus to Jackson, Miss.
Martin Luther King Jr. encourages freedom riders as they board a bus for Jackson, Miss.
Freedom riders and members of the National Guard on a bus in the Deep South.
Freedom riders on a bus in the Deep South.
Freedom riders on a bus in the Deep South.
White segregationists hurl stones at a bus carrying freedom riders in Mississippi.
A young freedom rider on a bus in the Deep South.
Julia Aaron and David Dennis, along with 25 other freedom riders and several members of the National Guard, travel from
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Paul Schutzer—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
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