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Denmark Vesey Only Part of a Complex Story of 19th Century Black Charlestonians

Denmark Vesey
Courtesy National Park Service
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  There's a long history to the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., — affectionately known as "Mother Emanuel" — where nine churchgoers were allegedly shot and killed by 21-year-old Dylann Roof on Wednesday night. Part of that history involves Denmark Vesey, a West Indian slave, and later a freedman, who planned what would have been one of the largest slave rebellions in the United States had word of the plans not been leaked.

The revolt was to take place on Bastille Day, July 17, 1822, and was in reaction to the city of Charleston's suppression of the African Church, which boasted a membership of over three thousand in 1820. News of the plan leaked and Charleston authorities arrested the plot's leaders before the uprising could begin.

Dr. Bernard E. Powers, Jr., Professor of History and Director of African-American Studies at the College of Charleston, joins Dr. Edgar to talk about Denmark Vesey and why his name still has resonance today. (Originally broadcast 03/14/08)

Dr. Walter Edgar has two programs on South Carolina Public Radio: Walter Edgar's Journal, and South Carolina from A to Z. Dr. Edgar receivedhisA.B.degreefromDavidson College in 1965 and his Ph.D. from the University of South Carolina in 1969. After two years in the army (including a tour of duty in Vietnam), he returned to USC as a post-doctoral fellow of the National Archives, assigned to the Papers of Henry Laurens.