Xavier Spencer

The Family Legacy of Denmark Vesey 1822-2022

On July 2, 1822, a free Black minister named Denmark Vesey was hanged in Charleston, South Carolina. Vesey had supposedly masterminded what would have been the largest slave revolt in American history, but he was betrayed by one of his co-conspirators. Though several of Vesey’s children were implicated in the plot, his twenty-two-year-old son Robert escaped punishment. Two centuries later, Xavier Spencer, IMFT, CST discovered a familial connection to the Veseys while researching his lineage. In the midst of the Civil War, Robert married Spencer’s ancestor Hannah Nelson. Both the bride and groom were in their sixties and had been married before, but together they navigated the uncertain racial constraint of Reconstruction. A fierce and headstrong “well-to-do” free Black woman who bought her own family’s freedom, Hannah must have recognized that same fire in the Vesey lineage. She would transmit that resiliency to her descendants as they faced the emergence of Jim Crow. A remarkable and original work of genealogical history, The Family Legacy of Denmark Vesey 1822-2022 follows seven generations of Spencer’s ancestors, from the transatlantic slave ships of the Caribbean to the plantations of South Carolina’s Lowcountry and finally to the hills of West Virginia and Ohio.


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