The Fraught Legacy of Denmark Vesey

Posted By Bill Payer on Feb 19, 2022 | 0 comments

That’s the title of a Wall Street Journal article that outlines Charleston’s 200 year old struggle to deal with the legacy of Denmark Vesey…the former slave executed for attempting to foment a slave rebellion.

“Two centuries later, Vesey’s memory and the history he represents remain contested in Charleston. In 2014, the city erected a Denmark Vesey monument after a passionate campaign that lasted nearly two decades and faced heated opposition. No images of Vesey were made during his lifetime, so the statue by Black sculptor Ed Dwight imagines what he might have looked like: a man standing proudly with his head held high, holding his hat and a carpenter’s bag with his right hand and a Bible with his left hand.

While the monument was being planned, local newspapers published editorials protesting it, describing Vesey as a criminal. As historians Ethan J. Kytle and Blain Roberts write in their book “Denmark Vesey’s Garden,” the committee that proposed the memorial in the 1990s intended to locate it in Marion Square, a popular tourist site in downtown Charleston, but the owners of the square rejected the idea.

Eventually the committee found a home for the monument in Hampton Park, which far fewer tourists visit. The park is named for Wade Hampton, a Confederate general who was later elected governor of South Carolina. During the Civil War, however, the site served as an outdoor prison for Union soldiers, and 250 of them were buried there in a mass grave. As the war ended, Black Americans led an effort to build a new cemetery and reinter the fallen soldiers. On May 1, 1865, they held what historians now recognize as one of the earliest Memorial Day celebrations, and a marker reading “First Memorial Day in the United States of America” was set up in Hampton Park in 2010.”

To read the entire WSJ piece, CLICK HERE

Denmark Vesey Monument in Hampton Park, Charleston, South Carolina NPS/Sobol


TIME The Most Important Slave Revolt That Never Happened

From the National Park Service CLICK HERE

This Far by Faith . Denmark Vesey | PBS CLICK HERE

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