CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg greeted an audience gathered at the Gaillard Center to watch the Democratic Presidential Debate and celebrated the city’s sometimes unpleasant history.
“Of course, like any city that counts its days in centuries, Charleston’s is a history that mixes heartache and hope in almost equal measure,” Tecklenburg said. “It was here that proud African men and women were cruelly exploited and enslaved. And here those same men and women created an extraordinary Gullah Geechee culture that’s only now beginning to be properly recognized. It was here that the Civil War and Jim Crow sought to continue the subjugation of a people. And here, that the great cause of civil rights won some of its most important battles. Here that an evil young man brought agony to one of our most beloved houses of worship, and here that an American president brought our whole nation together with hope to the strains of ‘Amazing Grace.’”
The latter remarks were in reference to the 2015 shooting at Mother Emanuel AME Church that claimed nine parishioners; followed by then-President Barack Obama singing “Amazing Grace” while speaking at the funeral of the church’s senior pastor, the Rev. Clementa Pinckney.
Tecklenburg noted Charleston is celebrating its 350th birthday, saying, “tonight, our city will be part of history.”
The Mother Emanuel AME Church choir kicked off the event with the song “Lift Every Voice and Sing” and the national anthem.
"We are so proud to be here in Charleston, South Carolina, because Charleston is so much a part of the fabric of this country," CBS News President Susan Zirinsky said. "There have been many debates. We wanted this one when it counts. In a city that matters."
CBS News is hosting Tuesday night’s debate with the Congressional Black Caucus Institute.
U.S. House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn said the challenge for the Democratic Party is to make all of America’s greatness “accessible and affordable for all of its citizens.”
The Rev. Jesse Jackson, who announced in late 2017 that he had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, also made a brief appearance on stage, accompanied by the Rev. Al Sharpton.
Live 5 News anchor Bill Sharpe served as emcee for the event, which began at 7 p.m., one hour before seven of the eight Democratic presidential candidates were set to take the stage.