He Shall Go Out Free: The Lives of Denmark Vesey

Overview

On July 2, 1822, Denmark Vesey was hanged in Charleston, S.C., for his role in planning one of the largest slave uprisings in the United States. During his long, extraordinary life Vesey played many roles—Caribbean field hand, cabin boy, chandler's man, house servant, proud freeman, carpenter, husband, father, church leader, abolitionist, revolutionary. Yet until his execution transformed him into a symbol of liberty, Vesey made it his life's work to avoid the attention of white authorities. Because he preferred ...

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He Shall Go Out Free: The Lives of Denmark Vesey

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Overview

On July 2, 1822, Denmark Vesey was hanged in Charleston, S.C., for his role in planning one of the largest slave uprisings in the United States. During his long, extraordinary life Vesey played many roles—Caribbean field hand, cabin boy, chandler's man, house servant, proud freeman, carpenter, husband, father, church leader, abolitionist, revolutionary. Yet until his execution transformed him into a symbol of liberty, Vesey made it his life's work to avoid the attention of white authorities. Because he preferred to dwell in the hidden alleys of Charleston's slave community, Vesey remains as elusive as he is today celebrated, and his legend is often mistaken for fact.

In this biography of the great rebel leader, Douglas R. Egerton employs a variety of historical sources—church records, court documents, travel accounts, and newspapers from America and Saint Domingue—to recreate the lost world of the mysterious Vesey. The revised and updated edition reflects the most recent scholarship on Vesey, and a new afterword by the author explores the current debate about the existence of the 1822 conspiracy. If Vesey's plot was unique in the annals of slave rebellions in North America, it was because he was unique; his goals, as well as the methods he chose to achieve them, were the product of a hard life's experience.

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Editorial Reviews

Reference and Research Book News
Egerton seeks Vesey in the few records that remain, ranging from newspaper stories to hastily scribbled court transcripts, in uncommon sources from the Carolinas to Haiti. He finds that Vesey was a complicated man whose freed status and eloquence in several languages did not seem to matter, whose frustration with white society, white religion, and white power led him to organize a revolt that consisted of slaves simply walking away from it all. Egerton includes very useful essays on his sources and on Vesey's treatment by historians.
Ira Berlin
Egerton greatly enriches our understanding of Vesey's strategy and aspirations by placing him and his fellow conspirators in the context of Charleston society, and Charleston society in the context of the larger Atlantic world. An extraordinarily assiduous researcher, Egerton also expands our knowledge of Vesey.
New York Times Book Review
Booknews
Egerton (history, Le Moyne College) presents a biography of Denmark Vesey, most famous for his doomed 1822 slave rebellion in Charleston, South Carolina. The work goes beyond the planning of the rebellion to look at the entire life of Vesey and, by extension, the social world that shaped him. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780742542228
  • Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
  • Publication date: 12/28/2004
  • Series: American Profiles Series
  • Edition description: Revised and Updated Edition
  • Pages: 296
  • Product dimensions: 6.34 (w) x 9.42 (h) x 1.06 (d)

Meet the Author

Douglas R. Egerton is the author of the critically acclaimed Gabriel's Rebellion: The Virginia Slave Conspiracies of 1800 and 1802 and Charles Fenton Mercer and the Trial of National Conservatism. He is professor of history at Le Moyne College in Syracuse, New York.

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Table of Contents

Chapter 1: The Book of Telemaque, 1767–1782
Chapter 2: Stranger in a Strange Land, 1783–1793
Chapter 3: Nor a Lender Be, 1794–1799
Chapter 4: Freedom, 1800–1817
Chapter 5: Building the House of the Lord, 1817–1821
Chapter 6: Exodus, 1821–1822
Chapter 7: Lamentations, May–June 1822
Chapter 8: Judges, June–August 1822
Chapter 9: The Temple Finished, 1822–1865
Appendix 1: The Charleston Hanged
Appendix 2: Denmark Vesey and the Historians
Essay on Sources

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