On July 2, 1822, Denmark Vesey and five co-conspirators were hanged in a desolate marsh outside of Charleston, South Carolina. They had been betrayed by black informers during their attempt to set in motion the largest slave rebellion in the history of the United States--an effort astonishing in its level of organization and support. Nine thousand armed slaves and free blacks were to converge on Charleston, set the city aflame, seize the government arsenal, and then murder the entire white population of the city, sparing only the ship captains who would carry Vesey and his followers to Haiti or Africa. The attempted revolt was a significant episode in American history, yet it, and its leader, have been all but forgotten. In this balanced and gracefully written biography of Vesey--the first in many decades--David Robertson gives us a profile of this extraordinary man. He shows how, by preaching a doctrine of negritude combined with various religious elements, Vesey was able to attract large numbers of blacks to a messianic crusade for freedom. Robertson details the aftermath of the failed revolt, analyzes its social and political consequences, and articulates the essential, disturbing questions it poses to a racially and ethnically pluralistic society today.