Copyright 1998, 1999 , 2000 ASET, M. Mbulu All rights to everything on this web site are reserved.

Title of Course: Profiles In Black Mba Mbulu, Instructor

Textbook: None. Selected writings found online will constitute the textbook.

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Read the following information on Denmark Vesey. Relate the information to the following questions to the best of your ability.

(1) Denmark Vesey was an educated person, even though there is no mention of him attending school. What served as the basis of his education?

(2) Denmark was the best carpenter in the area, and he became a relatively wealthy man. Yet he was willing to risk all of that to fight slavery. In your opinion, why aren't many Blacks today who are relatively well off willing to take similar risks?

(3) Should Denmark have been concerned that whites thought he was an "uppity nigger?"

(4) Why was Denmark able to get so many Blacks to join him in their quest for freedom and self-government?

(5) In your opinion, was the rebellion led by Denmark successful? Was it a failure? Were there elements of success and failure, and can present day Black People learn from Denmark's life and strike against injustice?

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Rebel General, Organizer, Teacher, Revolutionary, Prime Example of Black Manhood

Little is known of Denmark Vesey's early personal life. He was Afrikan born, free spirited, and he hated slavery. While in the Virgin Islands with his master, he learned to read and speak several languages, including French, Danish, English and Spanish. He read everything he could get his hands on, and continued to read when his master later settled in Charleston, S. C.

While a boy, Denmark undoubtedly heard talk of the Haitian Revolution and of other Black men rising up and killing whites. After arriving in Charleston, he heard more of the same type news; of the Black Abolitionist Movement, the anti-slavery Quakers and the Underground Railroad. These type messages made him all the more resentful of slavery. He worked hard, saved his money, played the lottery regularly and, as a result, was able to purchase his freedom for $600. when he was 33 years old.

While a slave Denmark was a carpenter, the best in the area. After acquiring his freedom, he continued his work and was able to travel all over Charleston and throughout South Carolina (he was in such great demand). He took these opportunities to talk, discuss and teach Black People across the state about resistance and revolution. At the same time, he amassed property valued at more than $8000, an amount that very few white men in Charleston could match.

Denmark was a man to be respected. Along with his reputation of being a carpenter of distinction, he earned the reputation of being an "uppity nigger." He never called any white man "master" nor tipped his hat to one if he passed him on the street (which was the custom in those days). If he ever saw a Black man bowing to a white man, he would scold him loudly, for both Black and white to see. "You're a man born equal to any other man," Denmark would say. "How can you degrade yourself by scraping and bowing to another? I will never cringe before the whites." Not surprisingly, most of his friends were slaves, not freed Blacks. His wife was a slave and he was able to see her and their children only with her master's permission. Denmark tried to buy his family's freedom but their master would not sell them. Of all the indignities suffered by Denmark as a free man, the ownership of his own wife and children by another man angered him the most. "What kind of freedom is it when a man's wife and children don't belong to him?" he would ask. How could they be free yet not respected, nor have any rights which could not be neglected when it suited a white person to do so.

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As far as Denmark was concerned, slavery was total war. He always maintained that the slave must be his own salvation. "Nobody's going to liberate us but our own Black selves... It's time we stopped talking about it... It is time we started acting on it... We will never talk these people into freeing us... We must put words into doing."

With liberation as their religion, Denmark and others began to conspire. They studied various slave revolts that had occurred in South Carolina, Virginia, Mississippi, Louisiana and Georgia. They discussed the rebellion at Richmond led by Gabriel Prosser and the Gullah War, an insurrection that was very widespread in Carolina. They devised a plan that called for the killing of every white person in the Charleston district of South Carolina and immediately began recruiting enlistments, being careful to avoid those who received presents of old coats (house slaves) from their masters. Almost every Black man spoken to agreed to join the conspiracy.

Day and night Denmark worked for the insurrection. When he slept he dreamed about it. Everywhere he went he carefully spreaded the word for insurrection. He made recruiting trips as far as 70 and 80 miles away from Charleston, in every direction. In all of these places Black men cast their lot with the insurrection. In fact, seldom did he meet a slave who said he was happy with his situation. By the time recruitment had been completed, more than 9000 slaves had cast their faith with rebellion.

Men were assigned to check on all the places in town where arms and ammunition were kept. Places like arsenals, guardhouses, armories and stockades would be among the first points of attack. Surprise the guards, overwhelm them, take the guns, seize the arms and ammunition and use them in the insurrection--- that was their general strategy.

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General Vesey divided his troops into units according to their trade or occupation. In some cases he made up companies of those who spoke the same Afrikan language. He also organized a detachment of French speaking Blacks, slaves of Haitian refugees. Responsibilities were allotted out according to skills and occupations. The most important element in favor of the slaves was the element of surprise; without it they could not obtain the weapons necessary to carry out the rebellion. Unfortunately, this was lost when one of the rebellers attempted to recruit a house slave, who told the whites everything. Some of the whites found it hard to believe that their slaves didn't truly love them.

The thing that shocked the whites the most was the vastness of the plot. White mobs roamed around the city like mad wolves on the prowl in search of helpless prey. On the day the insurrection was supposed to begin, the whites were totally armed for war. Denmark and his forces had to retreat. As the magnitude of the conspiracy was revealed, the grand illusion of the happy slave was blown to smithereens, and the name Denmark Vesey was to excite bitterness and fear among whites for decades to come.

Denmark Vesey realized that organized resistance and organized plans are necessary if Black People are to relieve themselves of the inequalities and hostilities which are heaped on them daily. Denmark Vesey, with foresight and patience, attempted to lay the foundation for that organization. In so doing he proved himself a model of Blackness and established himself as a Profile in Black.

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