Conference of the Republic of New Africa - Detroit, Michigan March 31, 1968.
Participants drafted a constitution and declaration of independence.
New Black Nationalist
Draft Program for a
The Vesey Republic
April 2, 2022 - June, 19, 2023
Call for a
Denmark Vesey (Telemaque)
Denmark Vesey's Notemook
Denmark 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.”
On Denmark Vesey:
Court records at Denmark Vesey's 1822 trial in which he was convicted of a major slave revolt, indicated he was born around 1767, on the island of St. Thomas. At that. Thomas was a colony of Denmark.
Denmark was purchased at the age of 14 by Captain Joseph Vesey, a Bermudan sea merchant, who renamed him Telemarque'. Later he was sold to a Haitian planter, but was returned back to Joseph Vesey, when Telemargue' had epileptic seizures.
Telemaque worked as a personal assistant and interpreter in the slave trade which required traveling between Bermuda, Charleston, South Carolina, and Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. Telemarque' spoke and wrote fluently in French and English, and spoke in Creole, Spanish and other European languages. Following the Revolutionary War, Captain Joseph Vesey retired to Charleston, as did Telemargue,'
On November 9, 1799, Telemaque won $1500 in a Charleston city lottery and purchased his freedom for $600. Keeping his Vesey surname, Telemaque, began working as an independent carpenter and built up his own business.
In 1818, after becoming a freedman, he was among founders of a congregation on what was known as the "Bethel circuit" of the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME Church). This had been organized in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1816 as the first independent black denomination in the United States.
In the early 1800s, the state legislature had voted to reopen its ports to importing slaves from Africa. This decision was highly controversial and opposed by many planters in the Lowcountry, who feared the disruptive influence of new Africans on their slaves. Planters in Upland areas were developing new plantations based on short-staple cotton and needed many workers, so the state approved resumption of the Atlantic trade. The profitability of this type of cotton had been made possible by the invention of the cotton gin just before the turn of the 19th century. From 1804 to 1808, Charleston merchants imported some 75,000 slaves, more than the total brought to South Carolina in the 75 years before the Revolution. Some of these slaves were sold to the Uplands and other areas, but many of the new Africans were held in Charleston and on nearby Lowcountry plantations.
According to author David Robertson, Telmarque' "received no formal education, but as an adult he...had extensive familiarity with the Bible, and he collected pamphlets on the abolition of the slave trade. He closely read the transcripts of the debates in the U.S. Congress throughout 1819-1821 on whether to admit Missouri as a slave state.
Denmark Vesey reportedly planned the insurrection to take place on Bastille Day, July 14, 1822. This date was notable in association with the French Revolution, whose victors had abolished slavery in Saint-Domingue. News of the plan was said to be spread among thousands of blacks throughout Charleston and for tens of miles through plantations along the Carolina coast. (Both the city and county populations were majority black; Charleston in 1820 had a population of 14,127 blacks and 10,653 whites.) Within the black population was a growing upper class of free people of color or mulattos, some of whom were slaveholders. Vesey generally aligned himself with the slaves.
Denmark Vesey: Legacy of a Nation-State Insurrectionist
Denmark Vessey in 1822 organized the most elaborate and well-planned slave insurrection in the history of the United States. Had it succeeded, it also would have been the most violent. Nine years before Nat Turner's slave revolt in Virginia's Tidewater district, and thirty-seven years before John Brown's raid at Harpers Ferry, Vesey planned to seize the United States arsenal and ships at harbor in Charleston, then the fifth largest city in the nation.
In preparation for this attack, he recruited perhaps nine thousand slaves to his cause. He preached to them the doctrine of negritude, the shared spiritual identity of all people of color, whether in Africa, the Americas, or the West Indies. Three months before the date of the planned uprising, he corresponded with the president of the new black Republic of Haiti, in hopes of obtaining that nation's military aid in his rebellion.
On the night of the uprising, trusted house servants who were among his closest co-conspirators were to assassinate the governor of South Carolina and other important state officials as they slept in their Charleston homes. Vesey had prepared six infantry and calvary companies of armed slaves to roam through the streets of Charleston following these deaths, and murder the entire white population, including children. The city itself was to be burned to its foundations with explosives and incendiaries he had obtained for that purpose. The sole whites to be spared would be the captions of the ships seized after the revolt to carry him and his followers to Haiti or Africa.
He failed, and in the summer of 1822, Vesey and seventy-seven of his followers were hanged or imprisoned. But when the details of the Vesey plot and the fact of its near-success became known outside of Charleston, his planned actions had consequences throughout nineteenth-century American history. The then U.S. president, James Monroe, withheld diplomatic recognition of the Republic of Haiti after he learned of the plot; the United States would not grant recognition to this republic, founded on the same revolutionary principles as the United States, until 1863.
A former U.S. president, Thomas Jefferson, saw in the events at Charleston a melancholy confirmation that black slavery inevitably would sunder the nation which he, in his generation, had worked to make whole; and the secretary of war in 1822, John C. Calhoun, quietly began transferring sympathetic U.S. officers and troops southward to support slaveholding states in the coming crisis.
Denmark Vessey made no confession, and he spoke no final words on his gallows. Throughout his trial, as former conspirators were brought into the small upstairs room to tell what they knew, "he remained immovable," his judges wrote: "he folded his arms and seemed to pay great attention to the testimony given against him, but with his eyes fixed on the floor." After each witness finished, Vesey requested and received permission from the court to conduct his own cross-examination. In questioning each witness closely about the dates of supposed conversations, he displayed what his judges characterized after his death as "great penetration and sound judgement."
But Vesey never categorically denied the existence of a plot such as the witnesses described in their testimony against him; and he and his three coconspirators "mutually supported each other," according to his judges, with their shared byword repeated among themselves in their prison cells: "Do not open your lips! Die silent, as you shall see me do."
Denmark Vesey's life cannot be dismissed by regarding him as a personal of social aberration. Such apparently also was realized by his judges, who shortly after publishing their account of his trial and that of his coconspirators changed their minds and sought to recall the book: An Official Report of the Trials of Sundry Negroes, Charged with an Attempt to Raise an Insurrection of the State of South Carolina: Preceded by an Introduction and Narrative.
Denmark Vesey Monument in Hampton Park,
Charleston, South Carolina
Why the Name of the Proposed Black Nation-State is Called 'The Vesey Republic'
To those who may argue that naming a proposed Black Nation-State after a man--Denmark Vesey-- is not the best way to convey our vison of a future non-heteropatriarchal nation, we fully acknowledge the validity of the assertion.
In response, we'd simply like to say that our thinking was driven by the relevance and lessons of the historical event surrounding Vesey's Slave Insurrection for the future, rather than by the person. The breath, scale, planning, active preparations for the insurrection, exit strategy and diplomatic entreaty to integrate the mass exodus of slaves and free Blacks into Haiti's Black-led republic represents the most advanced experience of the Black Commons to establish a national polity by force of arms. Vesey wanted to win.
Second, The Vesey Republic was conceived as a
provisional title in the 14-month draft program phase. The same is true for the draft program that is dedicated to Joanne Chesimard, who took the name Assata Shakur. She is the living embodiment of the commitment and continued dedication to the liberation of the Black Commons.
At the conclusion of the draft program process, the name of the republic and its program can be amended. That will also be the case when victory is won, and our new black homeland (s) are secured.
We invite you to read the short passage below from the book Denmark Vesey, by David Robertson that encapsulates the historic vision of Vesey's revolutionary attempt to liberate the Black Commons.
A Must Read: The Vesey Insurrection