On 2 July 1822, Denmark Vesey was hanged in Charleston, South Carolina, for allegedly plotting a massive insurrection against slaveholders. In October 1822, Lionel Henry Kennedy and Thomas Parker, who served as magistrates for Vesey’s trial, published court documents as An Official Report of the Trials of Sundry Negroes, Charged with an Attempt to Raise an Insurrection in the State of South-Carolina. Since the mid-nineteenth century, interpreters of the Vesey affair have focused on Kennedy and Parker’s Official Report as a primary source from which to reconstruct Vesey’s alleged use of selected biblical texts to promote and justify the intended insurrection. Yet writings by Mary Beach and Benjamin Elliott prior to the publication of the Official Report provide important evidence for a broader understanding of Vesey’s interpretations of the Bible. These materials show that the comparisons to condemned cities in the Bible mentioned in the Official Report are part of a larger interpretive strategy that associates the white residents of Charleston with the inhabitants of Canaan and surrounding areas, who are divinely condemned during the Israelites’ conquest of these lands. They may also provide a better understanding of the proslavery response that Vesey’s intended insurrection evoked from local clergy such as Frederick Dalcho.

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