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Denmark Vesey – 1822

Denmark Vesey, a former slave and successful carpenter of Charleston, South Carolina, who was executed in 1822 for attempting to stage an anti-slavery uprising.
Denmark Vesey, a former slave and successful carpenter of Charleston, South Carolina, who was executed in 1822 for attempting to stage an anti-slavery uprising. | Screengrab: nps.gov

In 1822, former slave and carpenter Denmark Vesey had planned to organize a large slave revolt in Charleston, South Carolina, to kill several white slaveowners and then sail to Haiti with his followers.

However, authorities learned of the plot via two slaves and Vesey was arrested along with 130 others. Of those charged with conspiracy, 65 were found guilty and 37 were executed, Vesey among them.

Although his planned revolt failed to be carried out, Vesey’s example would inspire abolitionists before and during the American Civil War.

“Vesey was later held up as a hero among abolitionists, including Frederick Douglass, during the Civil War. Douglass used Vesey's name as a rallying cry in recruiting and inspiring African American troops, including the 54th Massachusetts Infantry,” noted the National Park Service.

“Vesey's son, Robert, attended the April 14, 1865, ceremony at Fort Sumter [where] Henry Ward Beecher discussed the meaning of the war and argued against the evils of slavery after Brevet Maj. Gen. Robert Anderson raised the 33 star U.S. flag that flew over the fort before the cruel rebellion began.”

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