The Robert and Janice McNair Foundation Pledges $1 Million for Emanuel Nine Memorial

First Major Gift is Earmarked for Memorial Construction

CHARLESTON, S.C. – August 28, 2019 – Today, the Mother Emanuel Memorial Foundation Board announced The Robert and Janice McNair Foundation’s pledge of $1 million, the first major gift for the permanent memorial honoring the Emanuel Nine, the nine clergy and church members murdered in 2015 at the Mother Emanuel A.M.E Church in Charleston, South Carolina.

“Our mission for this memorial is to honor the lives of the Emanuel Nine while celebrating God’s perfect love in the act of forgiveness which started with the victims’ families,” said Reverend Eric S.C. Manning, pastor of Mother Emanuel A.M.E. and co-chair of the memorial’s executive committee. “We are grateful to The Robert and Janice McNair Foundation for this generous donation and hope these actions inspire others to bring this important memorial to realization.” 

“I am incredibly humbled to help memorialize the enduring spirit of faith, love and forgiveness embodied in the nine individuals whose lives were horrifically cut short in 2015,” said Janice McNair.  “It is my hope and prayer that the Emanuel Nine Memorial will forever stand in testament to their lives, our hope in Christ and the enduring spirit of forgiveness so beautifully expressed by the Emanuel community.”


In July 2018, the Mother Emanuel Memorial Foundation revealed plans for the memorial to be located on the church grounds. The plans were designed by architect Michael Arad, who also created the National September 11 Memorial in New York City.

The memorial design features a courtyard with two fellowship benches facing each other with high backs that arc up and around like sheltering wings. At the center of the courtyard, the curves of the benches encircle a marble fountain where the names of the Emanuel Nine are carved around the fountain’s edge. Water emanates from a cross-shaped source, filling the basin and gently spilling over the names of the nine. The opening between the benches toward the back of the courtyard reveals a cross above a simple altar, providing visitors a quiet place to linger in thought and prayer. 

The memorial includes a survivors’ garden, which is accessed by a pathway from the courtyard. Dedicated to life and resiliency, the garden is surrounded by six stone benches and five trees, symbolizing the five survivors – the sixth bench signifying that the church is also a survivor.

“Our hope is that the memorial will provide a place for remembrance and contemplation, while offering the opportunity to advance our collective actions to eradicate racism,” said Reverend Manning.

The $1 million pledge is in addition to the McNairs’ donation of $100,000 to Mother Emanuel A.M.E. Church in 2015 to assist with victims’ funeral costs immediately following the racially motivated attack.

Tax-deductible donations for the Emanuel Nine Memorial can be made online by visiting: 

About the Mother Emanuel Memorial Foundation Board

The Mother Emanuel Memorial Foundation Board was established as an independent 501(c)(3) organization to support the mission of the Emanuel Nine Memorial. The Board manages the fundraising, construction, endowment, and outreach for the memorial.  

About Mother Emanuel A.M.E. Church

The roots of Mother Emanuel A.M.E. Church run deep in Charleston and its history is one of perseverance in the face of racial hostility. The church is affectionately called Mother Emanuel because it is the oldest AME church south of Baltimore. The congregation first formed in 1791, a coalition of free blacks and slaves. In 1822, the church was burned to the ground, after plans for a slave revolt were exposed. The congregation rebuilt the church and met there until 1834 – when all-black churches were outlawed by the state legislature. Undeterred, members continued to meet in secret until the end of the Civil War in 1865, when they formally reorganized. They adopted the name ‘Emanuel,’ meaning “God with us.” At the time, the church was a wooden two-story structure, and it was destroyed in an earthquake in 1886. Once again, it was rebuilt. During the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, it was a destination for many of the leaders, including Martin Luther King, Jr. Today, Mother Emanuel A.M.E. Church is a fixture in Charleston. With seating for 1,200, it has the largest capacity of any African American church in Charleston. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1985.  

About The Robert and Janice McNair Foundation

Established in 1988, The Robert and Janice McNair Foundation is focused on a different tomorrow. Janice McNair and her late husband Bob have long believed the greatest impact one can leave on the world is a dedicated focus on one’s mission, vision and values. Through their passionate support of students, young entrepreneurs, medical research and the community, the McNair family is transforming some of the biggest challenges our nation faces today into the solutions of tomorrow. To learn more, visit 

Media Contact:

Lou Hammond Group

Kelsey Donnelly 


Mother Emanuel Memorial Foundation Contact: 

Karen Bacot

O: 843.277.3093 / C: 843.609.7433