MEMPHIS — Minutes before Hillary Clinton arrived at the Greater Imani Cathedral of Faith on Sunday, the choir brought the congregation to its feet with a rendition of “We Shall Overcome.”

Decades after the song became a banner of the civil rights movement, it is still sung in African American churches across the country — a reflection of the institution’s outsize place in the community’s public and political life. 

On the heels of Clinton’s resounding victory in South Carolina — powered by historic turnout among African American voters — she came to Memphis to address two predominantly African American congregations on Sunday morning. 

The stops not only kick off the sprint to Super Tuesday states, but also reveal the Clinton campaign’s strategic focus on Southern states such as Tennessee where black voters could deliver the kind of victory to Clinton that she saw in South Carolina.

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In states such as Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia and Texas, black voters — and the loyalty they have demonstrated to Clinton — will be key to her ability to rack up sizable margins over her main rival, Sen. Bernie Sanders, which would award her a greater proportion of delegates in those states.

As she did Saturday night in her victory speech in the Palmetto State, Clinton reached for her faith to help frame her candidacy to the congregation at Greater Imani.

“I said last night that it may sound odd from someone running for president, but I think we need more love and kindness,” Clinton said.

“Yes!” the congregation responded.

“That should not be reserved for Sunday morning, pastor,” she added. 

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The Memphis congregation is known for being politically active. It has a membership as large as 7,000 and its services are broadcast to a television audience of more than 20 million, according to the church’s website. 

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William A. Adkins Jr. said the campaign reached out to him last week asking whether Clinton could visit the church. 

“We could not tell anyone. I couldn’t even tell my children,” Adkins said. "All I could tell you was — be there Sunday. You don’t want to miss it!”

Clinton spoke of breaking down barriers of systemic racism. She decried the deaths of black people at the hands of police. She noted, one by one, the stories of people such as Jordan Davis and Trayvon Martin, deadly victims of gun violence and whose mothers had endorsed her.

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“We can’t ignore this, “ Clinton said later at Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church.

She talked about reducing college debt, and the congregation called out “amen!” as if she were delivering a sermon. 

Clinton expressed confidence in the future of America and denounced the “mean-spiritedness” in the current political cycle.

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"I said last night: America has not stopped being great," Clinton said, in a not-so-veiled reference to GOP frontrunner Donald Trump's campaign slogan. "Our task is to make America whole."

And, of course, she asked for their votes.

"I will need your help on Tuesday. The primary here in Tennessee is very important,” Clinton said at Greater Imani. “But, most importantly, we need to raise your voices and your vote in a way that people in authority begin to understand that we are all in this together.”

“You see, I really do believe that if we pull together, if we act like the United States of America,” Clinton said as the audience voiced their agreement, “America’s best years can still be ahead of us."

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