Denmark Vesey's Rebellion

Famous Slave and Rebellion Leader

The Famous Slave and Rebellion Leader Denmark Vesey: A Brief Synopsis

Denmark Vesey was a free man, credited with planning a slave revolt in Charleston 1822. Rumours of the proposed uprising were leaked from a fellow slave resulting in the swift execution of Denmark Vesey and his conspirators on 2 July 1822. Abolitionist and escaped slave Frederick Douglass was said to have used Denmark Vesey's name to recruit African-American men during the Civil War. Despite almost two decades of controversial debates as to whether Denmark Vesey deserved to be remembered in the failed uprising, in acknowledgement of his efforts to help the enslaved, a statue of Denmark Vesey was finally erected in 2014 in Hampton Park, Charleston, away from the area most frequented by tourists.

The Famous Slave and Rebellion Leader Denmark Vesey: Childhood

There is little historical evidence of Denmark Vesey's childhood, however, manuscripts from his trial in 1822 reveal that he was born in c.1767 in the United States Virgin Islands and was known as Telemaque during his years in bondage. At fourteen, Denmark Vesey was purchased by Bermudian sea captain Joseph Vesey and later sold to a sugar planter in what is now Haiti. However, due to Denmark Vesey's epileptic seizures, Joseph Vesey took him back and returned the planter's money. As there is no evidence that that Denmark Vesey's seizures continued, it has been suggested that it may have simply been a ruse to escape harsh plantation life.

The Famous Slave and Rebellion Leader Denmark Vesey: Becoming Free and Trade

Joseph Vesey retired to Bay Street, Charleston in 1783, by which time Denmark Vesey was literate and could speak French, English, Danish and Creole. He was hired out as a carpenter until 31 December 1799 whereupon he won $1500 in the East Bay Street lottery. Denmark Vesey purchased his freedom from his master for $600 and used the proceeds to open a carpentry shop. Said to have accumulated significant wealth, Denmark Vesey co-founded the second largest AME Church in America in 1818; this was occasionally shut down due to fears that slave laws were being broken. According to the 1821 City Registry, Denmark Vesey also rented 20 Bull Street from Dr Trezevant; however, the property today credited with being the Denmark Vesey House is likely to have been built in the 1830's, some years after Denmark Vesey's death.

Denmark Vesey's Rebellion

In 1820, Denmark Vesey along with some slaves, conspired to overthrow the slaveholders; drawing upon Denmark Vesey's followers in the church to add to their numbers. News spread to neighbouring areas for miles, allegedly creating over nine thousand supporters. The revolt was to take place on 14 July 1822, where they were to storm the city, kill the white people within and set Charleston alight to create a distraction whilst they fled to Haiti. However, two slaves by the name of George Wilson and Joe La Roche fed this information back to their masters, verifying the report made by fellow slave Peter Prioleau.


Name: Denmark Vesey
AKA: Telemaque
Birth: C.1767, St Thomas, United States Virgin Islands
02 July 1822, Charleston
Famous for:
Planning a failed revolt against slaveholders in Charleston
Slave Status:

The Aftermath of Denmark Vesey's Rebellion

Militias patrolled the streets for many weeks until the majority of suspects had been arrested at the end of June, where they were held in the Charleston workhouse until sufficient evidence could be gathered. There was little published by the newspapers during this time until Denmark Vesey with five of his co-conspirators were hung on 2 July 1822. Governor Thomas Bennett and his brother in law, Justice Johnson were not satisfied with the efforts of the court as the suspects were not given fair trials, but Bennett was advised by the Attorney General of the State that slaves were not protected by the same rights as freemen. By the time the trials were concluded, 35 men were hung, including Denmark Vesey, 32 were deported and 53 men were acquitted. The church that he had co-founded was razed to the ground amid fear that religion had contributed toward the rebellion. As a result of the proposed uprising, stringent laws were in place for slaves and freemen alike; the Negro-Seaman's Act 1822 required free black sailors in to South Carolina to be housed in jail until their ship departed, limiting their influence over slaves and freemen. If the captain did not pay the jailer's fee for room and board, the free sailor would be sold in to slavery. Free black migrants were required to pay special taxes, and free men required a white guardian. It has since been suggested by historian Robert Wade that given certain discrepancies and lack of material evidence, that it is possible that there was not a large scale rebellion in place, but simply 'angry talk' which was blown out of proportion.


  1. Encylopaedia of African American History

  2. Catherine S Marigold - In Glory's Shadow: The Citadel, Shannon Faukner and a Changing America

  3. Bernard Powers - Black Charlestonians: A Social History, 1822-1885

  4. Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience

  5. Encyclopaedia Britannica


  7. The Atlantic Monthly

The Biography of Famous Slave and Rebellion Leader Denmark Vesey

  • The Biography of Denmark Vesey, for Education and Learning
  • Denmark Vesey's Efforts to End Slavery
  • Information About Denmark Vesey's Life


  • Quick Facts About Rebellion Leader Denmark Vesey
  • Information About the Aftermath of Denmark Vesey's Rebellion

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