Book Review w/ J. Curtis | Denmark Vesey

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Book Info

Title: Denmark Vesey: The Buried Story of America’s Largest Slave Rebellion and the Man Who Lead It
Author: David Robertson
Publisher: Vintage Books
Year: 1999
My Genre Category: History


Synopsis (4/5)

Mr. Robertson has captured the remarkable story of Denmark Vesey, a free man in Charleston, South Carolina. Vesey was born into slavery and lead the conspired event of what would have been the largest slave rebellion in American history. How did this man, who gained his own freedom, get to where he almost overtook the city of Charleston?

Content/Writing (4/5)

Mr. Robertson did well painting the picture of the life of Vesey. He had strong descriptions and filled in the surrounding context very well. One of the things I enjoy the most about reading history is seeing all the surrounding context and backgrounds that helped shape the event of focus and Mr. Robertson accomplished this task. At times, you can see Mr. Robertson’s own political thoughts spill out. I had mixed feeling on this. On the one hand, I appreciate an author putting pieces of themselves in their work. I think this important. On the other hand, for a history book, I rather stay in the context of the story. However, although I could tell we would probably come to different conclusions and have a different sway of the topic, I did appreciate how Mr. Robertson’s own thoughts did not overshadow the story. He put pieces here and there, but it did not distract from the story. As such, I thought it was well done.

Design/Font/In Hand (4/5)

The book feels good in the hands. It’s a nice size, has good supporting pictures – which I find highly valuable in a history book – has a capturing cover, and unique chapter headings. The only real critique I would give would be to use a different font, but it still works well.

Impact (5/5)

I am probably biased in this category. Being a history major, I think the more history we can read and learn from the better and the greater impact it would have on us. Especially when the author is being true to the actual history of what occurred, versus so much of the history we see today when authors write modern day thinking and convictions into the past. History must stay true to the context. I think Mr. Robinson does that well, even while sharing his own thoughts. As such, I would probably give this a 4/5. However, since this is a story that had such significance at the time and I have never heard of the story before, I bumped it up to a 5.

Recommend (3/5)

I would not put this in a must-read category for most people. If you are a history fan or a history student, then I would give it more weight. For the general public, I still think it holds value and would encourage it but wouldn’t consider it necessary. I will probably add it to my children’s reading list for late-high school.


“Die like a man!” From their common cell at the Work House, Peter Poyas and Denmark Vesey shouted this encouragement to each of the other blacks arrested and brought to the prison during the period from June 18 to June 30. Vesey’s and Poyas’s shouts gave voice to the fears and anticipations of each black man thrust, under guard, into the city’s prison for the confinement and torture of slaves: that once arrested and charged with insurrection, a black salve’s death was inevitable, and that a fair trial by whites was an impossibility. The only way to resist was to die stoically and silently, revealing as little about Vesey’s plot as possible.

David Robertson. Denmark Vesey: The Buried Story of America’s Largest Slave Rebellion and the Man Who Led It (New York: Vintage Books, 1999), 88

Overview (4/5)

Denmark Vesey tells a vivid story of this mysterious man who arose as a leader in his community and plotted and planned America’s greatest slave rebellion. His actions have created a quiet but definite slow burn on the timeline of our history as he periodically arises again through other leaders – even of the ranks of a Frederick Douglass. Certainly, an interesting read that was well written.


© J. Curtis, 2022

Published in: on 7 AMpFri, 28 Oct 2022 10:02:00 -040002Friday 2016 at 10:02 am  Leave a Comment  
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