People & Events
The Vesey Conspiracy
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On May 30, 1822, George Wilson, "a favourite and confidential slave" informed his master of a planned insurrection that involved thousands of free and enslaved blacks who lived in and around Charleston.
Charleston authorities subsequently uncovered evidence of the most extensive black insurrection in American history, planned for July, 1822. The city's suppression of the African Church, which boasted a membership of over three thousand in 1820, provided the catalyst for revolt; Denmark Vesey began using his position as a respected free man and Methodist leader to organize other free and enslaved blacks. Among Vesey's co-conspirators was Gullah Jack Pritchard, an African priest from Mozambique. Monday Gell, another of his lieutenants, wrote two letters to the president of Santo Domingo seeking support for the insurrection.
Once the plot was betrayed, Charleston officials moved quickly to arrest and question the leaders. Following a lengthy trial, Vesey and thirty-six others were hanged. On the day of Vesey's execution, state militia and federal troops had to be called out to contain a demonstration by black supporters. Despite arrests and beatings, many blacks defied authorities by wearing mourning black as they witnessed the executions of the chief co-conspirators.
In August of 1822, the City Council authorized J. Hamilton, the city's Intendant (Mayor) to publish an account of Vesey's rebellion. Hamilton prefaced his account by noting,
"I have not been insensible...as to what it might be politic either to publish or suppress....I have deemed a full publication ... as the most judicious course .... there can be no harm in the salutary inculcation of one lesson, among a certain portion of our population, that there is nothing they are bad enough to do, that we are not powerful enough to punish."
Hamilton's "Account" was sold for 25 cents, with a "discount by the hundred."
"Reflections, Occasioned by the late Disturbances in Charleston "
Denmark Vesey brought before the Court
Sentence of Gullah Jack
Confession of Monday Gell
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