Past Voices – The Story of Denmark Vesey – Thomas Wentworth Higginson / June 1861 Issue – The Atlantic

Drawing of Charleston ChurchOn Saturday afternoon, May 26th, 1822, a slave named Devany, belonging to Colonel Prioleau of Charleston, South Carolina, was sent to market by his mistress—the Colonel being absent in the country. After doing his errands, he strolled down upon the wharves, in the enjoyment of that magnificent wealth of leisure which usually characterizes the “house-servant” of the South, when once beyond hail of the street-door. He presently noticed a small vessel lying in the stream, with a peculiar flag flying; and while looking at it, he was accosted by a slave named William, belonging to Mr. John Paul, who remarked to him—”I have often seen a flag with the number 76, but never one with the number 96 upon it before.” After some further conversation on this trifling point, he continued with earnestness—”Do you know that something serious is about to take place?” Devany disclaiming the knowledge of any graver impending crisis than the family dinner, the other went on to inform him that many of the slaves were “determined to right themselves.” “We are determined,” he added, “to shake off our bondage, and for that purpose we stand on a good foundation; many have joined, and if you will go with me, I will show you the man who has the list of names, and who will take yours down.”


The full story of the daring plan can be read here.