#Denmark Vesey (also called #Telemaque) was born into slavery in St. Thomas. Young Telemaque was bought around the age of 14 by Joseph Vesey, a Bermudian sea captain and slave merchant. After a few years, he sold the youth to a planter in French Saint-Dominque. It was soon found that young Telemaque suffered from seizures, and was returned to Joseph Vesey. It is suggested that Telemaque might have faked the seizures in order to escape brutal treatment. There are no records of him suffering from seizures in his adult life.
Telemaque worked for Joseph Vesey as a personal assistant and interpreter in slave trading, including periods spent in Bermuda, and was known to speak French and Spanish in addition to English. Following the American Revolution, the captain retired from the sea and slave trade, settling in Charleston, South Carolina. Telamaque had learned to read and write by the time he arrived in Charleston, and was already fluent in French and English.
On November 9, 1799, Telemaque won $1500 in a city lottery. At the age of 32, he purchased his freedom for $600 from Vesey. He took the surname Vesey and the given name of Denmark, after the nation ruling his birthplace of St. Thomas. Denmark Vesey began working as an independent carpenter and built up his own business. He worked hard, had a good business, and a family. For reasons not know he could not buy his first wife, Beck and their children, out of slavery. He became active in the church; and was one of the founders of the A.M.E Church in the city. The church was supported by white clergy and attracted nearly 1,800 members, making it one of the largest A.M.E congregations in the nation.
Vesey had been free for over 20 years before being accused and hanged in 1822 as the ringleader of “the rising.” It is believed that “the rising” an intended slave rebellion would devastate Charleston. Vesey and his followers were said to be planning to kill as many slaveholders in Charleston they could get their hands on. Vesey had been worried that word would get out about the slave revolt. Too many slaves knew about it, and many of the slaves were loyal to their masters.
The plan was to liberate the slaves, and then sail to the Black republic of Haiti to seek refuge. The city officials ordered that all the plot leaders be arrested. Vesey and five slaves were among the group of men who were found guilty in secret proceedings. George Wilson and Joe LaRoche, gave the first specific testimony about a coming uprising to Charleston officials, saying a “rising” was planned for July 14. George Wilson was a mixed-race slave who was deeply loyal to his master. The testimonies of these two men confirmed an earlier report coming from another slave named Peter Prioleau. Vesey and his men were charged and hanged. Read more about Demark Vesey.