Denmark Vesey was an 18th century slave who skillfully planned the largest slave rebellion in U.S. history. Unfortunately, he never saw the revolt because two other black men, George Wilson and Rolla Bennett, collectively revealed the plot to a white slavemaster. Regardless, Vesey was called a hero for his plan of the major Carolina rebellion.
Purchased in 1771, Vesey was a Caribbean native of St. Thomas who was settled to work in Charleston, North Carolina. In 1799, he won $600 in a lottery and bought his freedom. However, It wasn’t enough for his family.
In 1817, Vesey started attending the African Methodist Episcopal church. He became a leader, teaching from the Old Testament and giving root to the belief that those enslaving others would be brought to justice by God.
In 1822, Vesey and an African priest named Gullah Jack led an escape plan for thousands of slaves that was to take place on July 14. The plan involved murdering the town’s Governor and setting homes on fire. Then men instructed their followers to kill all the white men that tried to run. The slaves would then escape to Haiti.
Nearly a month before the planned revolt, Rolla Bennett, a follower of the conspiracy, told George Wilson, a leader of the AME church about their plans to take over. Wilson, a devout Christian, told Bennett to stay away from the revolt, then revealed the plans to his slavemasters, believing it was the right thing to do. On June 22, Vesey and a few other conspirators were arrested. Vesey refused to give up any of the other leaders in the revolt to authorities. He and the others were hanged on July 2nd. Vesey was hung to death with Gullah Jack following closely behind. By August 9th, 35 people were executed for the Carolina conspiracy.
George Wilson had been promised freedom for his information by his slavemaster. He never received it, and committed suicide as a result of insanity.
The AME church in Charleston was removed by the whites of the area, recognizing it as a symbol of power among the slaves. The slave population still held Vesey and the 34 conspirators that died with him as heroes in secret.