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A House Divided: Denmark Vessey's Rebellion (1982)

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Denmark Vessey
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1820s | slavery | See All (2) »

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17 February 1982 (USA)  »

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An obscure story in American history
4 June 2011 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

I saw this movie on television about 30 years ago and I still remember it because of the impression it left on me. It is not that easy to find a complete definitive story on Denmark Vessey. There are disagreements among those who have written about him and much speculation because like Nat Turner, he caused fear and outrage among the status quo of his time. I heard that they forbade his name to be mentioned by slaves, after the rebellion, on threat of punishment. and it also must be remembered that this occurred not long after the Haitian revolution and some speculate that Vessey was inspired by it and intended to flee with the slave to Haiti. This movie seems to handle the topic well by focusing on what led to the rebellion and the aftermath.Also it stands in stark contrast to the stereotype of the docile, humiliated, obedient slave which most of us has seen portrayed in other features of the period. The movie was the first time I saw the African-American portrayed in the media as resistant to his human bondage as a group. To this day many of the people in Charleston S. C. don't even know his story, which is a shame. I cannot find this movie on DVD, but if I could it definitely would be in my collection. Yaphet Kotto gives a strong performance as Vessey. This is worth watching.


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