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He Shall Go Out Free

The Lives of Denmark Vesey, Revised and Updated Edition

Douglas R. Egerton

On July 2, 1822, Denmark Vesey was hanged in Charleston, S.C., for his role in planning one of the largest slave uprisings in the United States. During his long, extraordinary life Vesey played many roles—Caribbean field hand, cabin boy, chandler's man, house servant, proud freeman, carpenter, husband, father, church leader, abolitionist, revolutionary. Yet until his execution transformed him into a symbol of liberty, Vesey made it his life's work to avoid the attention of white authorities. Because he preferred to dwell in the hidden alleys of Charleston's slave community, Vesey remains as elusive as he is today celebrated, and his legend is often mistaken for fact.

In this biography of the great rebel leader, Douglas R. Egerton employs a variety of historical sources—church records, court documents, travel accounts, and newspapers from America and Saint Domingue—to recreate the lost world of the mysterious Vesey. The revised and updated edition reflects the most recent scholarship on Vesey, and a new afterword by the author explores the current debate about the existence of the 1822 conspiracy. If Vesey's plot was unique in the annals of slave rebellions in North America, it was because he was unique; his goals, as well as the methods he chose to achieve them, were the product of a hard life's experience.
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Rowman & Littlefield Publishers
Pages: 296Size: 6 1/2 x 9 1/2
978-0-7425-4222-8 • Hardback • December 2004 • $95.00 • (£65.00)
978-0-7425-4223-5 • Paperback • December 2004 • $35.00 • (£23.95)
978-1-4616-3724-0 • eBook • December 2004 • $34.99 • (£23.95)
Douglas R. Egerton is the author of the critically acclaimed Gabriel's Rebellion: The Virginia Slave Conspiracies of 1800 and 1802 and Charles Fenton Mercer and the Trial of National Conservatism. He is professor of history at Le Moyne College in Syracuse, New York.
Chapter 1: The Book of Telemaque, 1767–1782
Chapter 2: Stranger in a Strange Land, 1783–1793
Chapter 3: Nor a Lender Be, 1794–1799
Chapter 4: Freedom, 1800–1817
Chapter 5: Building the House of the Lord, 1817–1821
Chapter 6: Exodus, 1821–1822
Chapter 7: Lamentations, May–June 1822
Chapter 8: Judges, June–August 1822
Chapter 9: The Temple Finished, 1822–1865
Appendix 1: The Charleston Hanged
Appendix 2: Denmark Vesey and the Historians
Essay on Sources
This is an extraordinary work, the product of probing research and fluent writing. Despite the sparse written record, Vesey's 'lives' as emigrant, slave, and freeman are sketched with vitality and understanding. The twenty-first century needs this readable reminder of an inspiring man and a significant event. (Previous Edition Praise)
Leslie H. Fishel, Jr., author of Black America: A Documentary History

The riveting story of Denmark Vesey and his comrades allows Egerton to explore expertly both the brutality and the limits of white planters' rule. This study is a rich reminder of the centrality of movement and revolt in the history of the emancipation of U.S. slaves. (Previous Edition Praise)
David Roediger, author of The Wages of Whiteness and Towards the Abolition of Whiteness

A fine biography that sheds light on an important but often misunderstood conspiracy. Together with Gabriel's Rebellion, this book establishes Douglas R. Egerton as a leading student of American slave revolts. (Previous Edition Praise)
Peter Kolchin, author of American Slavery: 1619–1877

An informed and compelling portrait of a Herculean figure in Southern history. Egerton combines careful sleuthing and a biographer's intuition to bring a key American life out of the shadows and place it in a complicated Atlantic setting. (Previous Edition Praise)
Peter H. Wood, author of Black Majority: Negroes in Colonial South Carolina from 1670 Through the Stono Rebellion

Egerton seeks Vesey in the few records that remain, ranging from newspaper stories to hastily scribbled court transcripts, in uncommon sources from the Carolinas to Haiti. He finds that Vesey was a complicated man whose freed status and eloquence in several languages did not seem to matter, whose frustration with white society, white religion, and white power led him to organize a revolt that consisted of slaves simply walking away from it all. Egerton includes very useful essays on his sources and on Vesey's treatment by historians.
Reference and Research Book News

Egerton writes in a clear, engaging style; his work is fully documented and reflects a solid grasp of scholarship on slavery and slave revolts. (Previous Edition Praise)