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Denmark Vesey's Revolt

The Slave Plot That Lit a Fuse to Fort Sumter

Peter C Lofton, Peter C. Hoffer

Publication Year: 2013

In 1822, Denmark Vesey was found guilty of plotting an insurrection—what would have been the biggest slave uprising in U.S. history. A free man of color, he was hanged along with 34 other African Americans in Charleston, South Carolina, in what historians agree was probably the largest civil execution in U.S. history. At the time of Vesey’s conviction, Charleston was America’s chief slave port and one of its most racially tense cities. Whites were outnumbered by slaves three to one, and they were haunted by memories of the 1791 slave rebellion in Haiti.

In Denmark Vesey’s Revolt, John Lofton draws upon primary sources to examine the trial and provide, as Peter Hoffer says in his new introduction, “one of the most sensible and measured” accounts of the subject. This classic book was originally published in 1964 as Insurrection in South Carolina: The Turbulent World of Denmark Vesey,and then reissued by the Kent State University Press in 1983 as Denmark Vesey’s Revolt: The Slave Plot That Lit a Fuse to Fort Sumter.

Published by: The Kent State University Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. i-iv

Contents

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pp. v-vi

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New Introduction-The Return of Denmark Vesey

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pp. vii-xxii

...a surge of young black men and women entering the historical profession. With them came the publication of a history in which people of color were not only victims but agents and heroes of their own stories. m en of color who as late as the 1930s were dismissed as ignorant or bestial in racist historical accounts were restored to their rightful place as spokesmen for an oppressed people...

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Preface to the Paperback Edition

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pp. xxiii-xxxiv

...Had Denmark Vesey succeeded in carrying out in full his plan for a black slave insurrection in Charleston, S. c., in 1822, he would have wreaked terrible carnage on the community. Hence, it is not surprising that Vesey aroused strong emotions in his own time. His white judges found him guilty of "treason...

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Preface

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pp. xxv-xl

...The abolitionist Thomas Wentworth Higginson assessed the plan of ex-slave Denmark Vesey for a revolt of Negroes in and around Charleston, South Carolina, in 1822 and called it "the most elaborate insurrectionary project ever formed by...

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Introduction

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pp. 1-4

...Down through the centuries of man's recorded history the acceptance of slavery has been more common in various societies than revulsion against it. Slavery was an acknowledged facet of life in ancient Israel, in Greece, in Rome, in Europe, and in antebellum America. The individual who was...

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1-A Key Port

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pp. 5-9

...Charleston, South Carolina, on a mid-summer day in 1770, the little ship was helping to link that city to a fortuitous destiny. She was taking her master, Captain Joseph Vesey, on the first leg of a trading route which, through his instrumentality, would have a portentous bearing on the history of the South Carolina port and indirectly on the history of...

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2-Slavery in the Islands

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pp. 10-18

...The spotlight of history, in playing back over the personal world of a child slave, cannot focus on details of character and event. By design of its rulers, the captive society in which the child lived offered no outlets for personal expression, no medium for a personal record to be inscribed on. Though...

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3-Slave Life at Sea

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pp. 19-25

...Since the French in the 1780's were importing about 20,000 slaves a year to St. Domingue, this trade alone was enough to keep Captain Vesey and others busy on the sea lanes between the slave marts and the West Indian island. During this maritime interval of his life, Denmark had...

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4-Slave City in a Free Republic

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pp. 26-36

...Although South Carolina's capital city had a spacious harbor, it was not an easy one for an eighteenth-century master to enter. A sand bank, with only a few breaks in it, extended almost from shore to shore across the mouth of the bay. Ships could enter by one or the other of the openings...

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5-Burden Bearers in South Carolina

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pp. 37-53

...By the final decade of the eighteenth century, slavery had been allowed to take an almost unshakeable grip on the destiny of South Carolina. Yet the imprint of the system on the state is not fully apparent in a glance at the figures from the first federal census in 1790. The census showed...

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6-Seeds of Insurrection

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pp. 54-74

...In South Carolina the liberalizing repercussions of the American Revolution met stronger resistance perhaps than in any other state. The firmly entrenched slave system of the Palmetto State had something to do with it. In this connection, the attitudes of the South Carolina delegates to the...

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7-The Half-Free Community

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pp. 75-95

...With the drawing of the prize money, a new life and a new outlook was to begin for the young "immigrant" from St. Thomas. He had experienced at least twenty years of slavery in many lands and under varying conditions-in St Thomas where probably his master was Danish; in St. Domingue...

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8-Mainstream of Reaction

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pp. 96-112

...Charleston at the turn of the century was still the commercial and social center of South Carolina and of a large part of the South as well. The South Carolina port, now containing 20,473 inhabitants, had dropped from fourth to fifth place among American cities...

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9-Eddies of Revolution

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pp. 113-130

...During the same decades that certain economic and political events were turning South Carolina toward insularity and reaction, other events were exerting a counter force. The Palmetto State's shift away from the main course of national history was effected by a political leadership largely controlled...

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10-Preparing the Ground

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pp. 131-144

...By 1822 Denmark Vesey had lived in the city of Charleston for nearly forty years. Whatever other homes he had known were now buried deep in the recesses of memory. For twenty-two years of his life in Charleston he had been a free man. He enjoyed the kind of liberty which, from a...

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11-The Hour for Revolt

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pp. 145-155

...At the southwest corner of Meeting and Broad Streets stood the guardhouse, the entire first floor of which was occupied by the guard-100 men under the command of a captain and three lieutenants. From this post regularly were sounded reveille and tatoo, signals which told the...

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12-Rebels on Trial

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pp. 155-181

...This dingy area, four blocks from the dignified square where white offenders were tried, was the scene of feverish activity during the summer of 1822. The accused conspirators were put on trial in a small room in the same building in which they were confined...

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13-The Harvest of Fears

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pp. 182-210

...The Charleston papers, as has already been noted, were careful as to what information they published and, in commenting on the event, used various strategems to camoflauge their meaning, referring darkly, for example to "the late attempt to excite a...

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14-A Fuse to Fort Sumter

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pp. 211-239

...an intensity of feeling that helped to set the state on a determined anti-nationalist course. The Missouri debate had contributed to sectionalism. Other phenomena-relations with Haiti, the abolitionist campaign, and the tariff controversy...

Notes

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pp. 240-273

Bibliography

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pp. 274-286

Index

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pp. 287-294

Back Cover

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p. 334-334


E-ISBN-13: 9781612777054
E-ISBN-10: 1612777058
Print-ISBN-13: 9781606351710

Page Count: 318
Publication Year: 2013

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Subject Headings

  • Charleston (S.C.) -- History -- Slave Insurrection, 1822.
  • Vesey, Denmark, approximately 1767-1822.
  • Slavery -- South Carolina.
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