Denmark Vesey was a literate, skilled carpenter and leader of African Americans in Charleston, South Carolina. In June 1822, he was accused and convicted of being the leader of “the rising,” a potentially major slave revolt which was scheduled to take place in the city on July 14.
Likely born into slavery in St. Thomas, Vesey was enslaved man in Bermuda for some time before being brought to Charleston, where he gained his freedom. Vesey won a lottery and purchased his freedom around the age of 32. He had a good business and a family, but was unable to buy his first wife Beck and their children out of slavery. Vesey became active in the Second Presbyterian Church.
In 1818, he was one of the founders of an independent African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church in the city, which became known as the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church after the Civil War. His church in Charleston had the support of white clergy in the city. It rapidly attracted 1,848 members, making it the second-largest AME congregation in the nation after Mother Bethel in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.