African American History
October 22, 2014
Denmark Vesey was an African American man whose birthdate is uncertain (around 1767) along with his birthplace (either born in Africa or as a slave on St. Thomas). In 1781, at the young age of fourteen, Denmark was brought by a slave master named Joseph Vesey from St. Thomas to Haiti, amongst 390 slaves. He was consequently sold and put to work in a sugar plantation. As a result, Denmark did not remain there long. Due to his exhausting tasks, such as cutting and planting sugar cane along with his physical features he fell in epileptic fit. “Unsound goods” the term his master used to describe following the incident because slaves who suffered from epilepsy was useless. He was returned to his master, Captain Vesey. After being returned to his previous master, Denmark became a servant. He was allowed to attend voyages between Africa and the West Indies and clearly observed the horrors of the slave trade. In 1783 though, Captain Vesey gave up his slaving voyages and chose to live in Charleston, South Carolina. He lived comfortably with his master for the next 17 years. As a personal slave, Denmark had numerous privileges compared to other slaves working on plantations. Unlike the others, he was given the opportunity to come and go as he pleased but his slave days came to an end. In 1800, he won the lottery obtaining $1,500 and bought his freedom and paid his master $600. Surprisingly, he used his extra winnings to open up a carpentry shop. Joseph viewed Denmark as having “good looks and intelligent” and he proved he was just that. Due to his highly skilled carpentry his business became quite wealthy allowing him to open his own church. In 1816, he obtained a black Methodist church in Charleston and by 1820 the church consisted of 3,000 members. He was viewed as a respectable member of the community, indeed he was but that didn’t cease whites with their thoughtless decisions. The whites didn’t like the idea...
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