Gullah Jack was an African conjurer, who is historically known for aiding Denmark Vesey in planning a slavery rebellion, referred to as the Denmark Vesey Conspiracy of 1822. Jack was also called Couter Jack and sometimes “Gullah.”
Gullah Jack was born of African descent. He was purchased as a prisoner of war at Zanguebar on Africa’s eastern shores in the early nineteenth century. Gullah Jack was allowed to take a bag aboard the ship which he always kept with him. Approximately forty people escaped or were taken prisoners in the 1812 Seminole raid on the Kinsley Plantation where Gullah Jack was enslaved. He was among the group that eventually ended up in Charleston, South Carolina. In 1821, Paul Pritchard purchased him there.
Gullah Jack was most noted for having perfected the “Shuck-and-jive” persona. He was a short man with bushy whiskers and acted playful for the whites. Just after Christmas 1821, Vesey recruited Gullah Jack to be one of his lieutenants. Gullah Jack was a conjurer and known among Blacks as “the little man who can’t be killed.” He had a reputation as a powerful root doctor, who was skilled in the uses of herbs for medicine and poison. It was believed Jack was able to create powerful protective amulets against evil. He also represented an Angolan company called the “Gullah Company” or the “Gullah Society.”
Gullah Jack was to get the message of Vesey’s plan to seize the city of Charleston out. The plan was to kill the whites if necessary and escape to the Caribbean. He recruited African-born men as soldiers for the revolution and gave the recruits African religious symbols to guarantee victory against the whites. He instructed his faithful to only eat parched corn and ground nuts on the day of the attack and gave them crab claws to hold in their mouths as they attacked, to keep them from being wounded. He is also said to have used his spiritual powers to terrify others into keeping silent about the conspiracy.
However, the plan failed, and Gullah Jack was captured on July 5, 1822. He was put on trial but Gullah Jack played the fool so much that it was hard for the judges to believe he was part of the rebellion. As the trial progressed and six witnessed testified against him, Jack’s demeanor changed. He scowled and gave his accusers hard looks. He made motions and designs with his fingers until the judges admonished him for trying to bewitch the witnesses. He asked for an extension of his life for one or two weeks. However, he was condemned to death and hung on July 12, 1822. He is still remembered and admired in the Gullah/Geechee nation.
Wicked Charleston: The Dark Side of the Holy City by Mark R. Jones