Robert L. Paquette, Executive Director of The Alexander Hamilton Institute for the Study of Western Civilization (AHI), was recently interviewed by TIME about his new book The Denmark Vesey Affair: A Documentary History. Co-edited by Douglas R. Egerton, Professor of History at Le Moyne College, the hefty volume investigates a controversial event in antebellum southern history, one that transformed the political history of South Carolina and helped put the slaveholding South on the road to secession. In 1822, authorities in Charleston convicted Denmark Vesey, a literate freed person of color, of masterminding a sophisticated conspiracy against slavery. Vesey and thirty-four slaves were sent to the gallows. Paquette and Egerton regard the plot as the most sophisticated slave plot in the history of the United States. The volume begins with the story of Vesey’s arrival in Charleston and ends in 2015 with the murder in Charleston of nine African-Americans in Emanuel AME Church. Emanuel AME is the lineal descendant of Charleston’s “African Church” to which Vesey belonged and which was the alleged center of the plotting.
In the TIME interview, Paquette states, “The Vesey Affair transformed politics in South Carolina, moving leaders like John C. Calhoun from qualified support for federal power to a states rights position that precipitates the nullification crisis, which was a prelude to the Civil War.”
Robert L. Paquette received his Ph. D. with honors in 1982 from the University of Rochester and has published extensively on the history of slavery, including the award-winning book Sugar Is Made with Blood (Wesleyan University Press, 1988). His essay “Of Facts and Fables: New Light on the Denmark Vesey Affair” (co-authored with Douglas Egerton) won the Malcolm C. Clark Award, given by the South Carolina Historical Society. In 2014, the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation and the American Conservative Union Foundation awarded him the Jeane Jordan Kirkpatrick Prize for Academic Freedom.
The AHI would like to congratulate Professor Paquette on his latest achievement.