Words Matter


Barack Obama's Eulogy for the Honorable Reverend Clementa Pinckney

Season 4, Ep. 23

On June 26th 2015 President Barack Obama delivered the eulogy at the funeral of the Reverend Clementa C. Pinckney, the senior pastor of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston and a South Carolina State Senator.

Reverend Pinckney and 8 other Black church members had been murdered a week earlier during Bible Study in a racially motivated mass shooting perpetrated by a white supremacist. 

The Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church is one of the oldest Black churches in the United States, and it has long been a center for organizing events related to civil rights

Founded in 1816, the church played an important role in the history of South Carolina, during slavery and Reconstruction, during the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 60s and in the Black Lives Matter movement. 

It is the oldest African Methodist Episcopal Church in the South, often referred to as "Mother Emanuel". 

Rev. Pinckney, was a well known activist who had held rallies after the shooting of Walter Scott by a white police officer two months earlier, in nearby North Charleston. As a state senator, Reverend Pinckney had pushed for legislation requiring police to wear body cameras.

The Reverend and his church were targeted because of their history and role in civil rights activism. 

With a rousing eulogy and a chorus of “Amazing Grace,” President Barack Obama called on the country to honor the nine victims of the South Carolina church massacre by working toward racial healing.

He said that included removing the Confederate battle flag from the South Carolina State House grounds.

“It’s true, the flag did not cause these murders,” The President said, but “we all have to acknowledge the flag has always represented more than just ancestral pride. For many, black and white, that flag was a reminder of systemic oppression and racial subjugation. We see that now.”

“By taking down that flag,” he said, “we express God’s grace.” But I don't think God wants us to stop there.“

On July 6, 2015, the South Carolina Senate voted to remove the Confederate flag from display outside the South Carolina State House. 

Make no mistake - the protests we have seen in the last month are a continuation of that struggle. And none of us can stop - none of us should rest until we dismantle and remove every symbol and every fact of the systemic oppression and racial subjugation that President Obama described in his eulogy of Reverend Pinckney. 

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