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From the classroom to the pulpit: Joe Riley, Emanuel AME, and a "post-racial America"

Former Charleston Mayor Joe Riley, now a Citadel professor, shared lessons from one of the darkest nights in the city’s history Thursday at Emanuel AME, in a lecture titled "The Emanuel Massacre and Post-Racial America." (WCIV)

Former Charleston Mayor Joe Riley, now a Citadel professor, took his class on a field trip Thursday.

His goal was to share lessons from one of the darkest nights in the city’s history, in a lecture titled "The Emanuel Massacre and Post-Racial America."

Class was in session at Emanuel AME, the very place where white supremacist Dylann Roof tried to start a race war.

"As President Obama said, as he gave the best speech I've ever heard,” said Riley. “President Obama said he picked the wrong church and he picked the wrong city."

Riley shared the floor with Mother Emanuel Reverend Eric Manning and Congressman Jim Clyburn.

"I know the subject of this class today is about post-racial America, but there ain't no such thing,” Clyburn said.

"The struggle is real and we have a lot of work to do,” Manning said.

In a sanctuary full of history, there were many teachable moments Thursday night.

"Thomas Edison was white and Lewis Latimer was black,” said Clyburn. “He went to Massachusetts and he said to Latimer, I’ve got this bulb and I’ve heard you got something called a filament. I think if we can get my bulb and your filament, we can illuminate the world and that's what they did."

The pews were packed, all there to listen to leaders trying to bridge the racial gap. The room was also filled with curious onlookers, tourists who took an unexpected stop.

"It opened my eyes that these are still topics and these different seen, these underlying tones are still valid,” said Cadet Andrew Grant.

"I think what people saw was a very intelligent, honest, thoughtful public servant who inspired everyone in the room,” said Riley.

"What made me feel the best is his insistence that there is hope and that there are things that are going on that may be more beneficial and encouraging than they initially looked,” said Kennetha Sawyers, visiting from Nashville, TN.A

After Thursday's class, Riley has only two left in the semester.

Next week's lecture will be called "Joe Riley's Charleston: The Making of a Great American City."

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