Paper Fans Helped Parishioners Report Suspicious Church Fires

Collection of the National Law Enforcement Museum, 2009.45.19

In the mid-1990s, church arsons were on the rise in the American South. A number of suspicious fires at churches with predominantly African American parishioners pointed to possible hate crimes. In June of 1996, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) was investigating suspicious fires at 37 churches in the South that took place over an 18- month span.
Parishioners and law enforcement sought new ways to raise awareness of the problem and bring the arsonists to justice. Paper fans such as this one were sent to churches around the country. The fan provides a toll-free number for people to report suspicious activity and warns potential arsonists of the 10 to 20-year prison sentence for those convicted of setting the fires.