Denmark Vesey Biography.com

Civil Rights Activist(c. 1767–c. 1822)
Denmark Vesey was a freed slave who held meetings to organize what would have been the biggest slave revolt in U.S. history.

Synopsis

A slave, Denmark Vesey spent 20 years sailing with his master. In 1800 he purchased his freedom, took up carpentry and prospered at his trade. Although he would later deny it, he allegedly held meetings at his home to collect arms for an uprising he was planning for as many as 9,000 African Americans in South Carolina. The plan was betrayed by several fearful slaves and he and others were seized.

Profile

Insurrection leader. Probably born on St. Thomas, West Indies. The property of Captain Vesey, a Charleston, South Carolina, slave trader and planter, he spent 20 years sailing with his master. In 1800 he purchased his freedom (allegedly having won a lottery), took up carpentry in Charleston, and prospered at his trade.

By 1818 he was preaching to slaves at plantations throughout the region and, drawing on the Bible, he told them that, like the Israelites, they would gain their freedom. Although he would later deny it, he allegedly held meetings at his home to collect arms for an uprising he was planning for as many as 9000 African-Americans in South Carolina. The plan was betrayed by several fearful slaves and he and others were seized.

He defended himself ably at his trial, but was sentenced and hanged along with about 35 blacks; some 35 others were sold to West Indian plantation owners. It would have been the largest slave revolt in U.S. history, but its end result was the passing of even stricter laws against African-Americans.

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