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date: 02 April 2020

Denmark Vesey Conspiracylocked

Extensively organized plan to end slavery in South Carolina, thwarted by betrayal.
  • Alonford James Robinson


During the summer of 1822, Denmark Vesey, a former slave who had purchased his freedom after winning a lottery twenty-three years earlier, gathered more than 9,000 South Carolina slaves for an insurrection. The plan was to seize weapons and travel throughout the state killing white slaveholders and liberating the slaves. Like past slave rebellions, the Denmark Vesey conspiracy was a powerful sign that slaves would go to great lengths to attain their freedom.

The word “conspiracy,” which has acquired largely negative connotations, conveys the unwillingness of most slaveholders to recognize the discontent among slaves condemned to an inhuman existence. The word also indicates the intense fear of slave uprisings that gripped the antebellum white South. Although the fear was common to most slaveholders, it was particularly strong in South Carolina. As far back as 1730 South Carolina whites had found themselves outnumbered by their slaves a distinction ...

A version of this article originally appeared in Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience.

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