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Stories / “Gullah” Jack Pritchard

“Gullah” Jack Pritchard

“Gullah” Jack Pritchard, conjurer and rebel, was born in East Africa in the final years of the eighteenth century. Pritchard was captured, taken to Zanzibar, and sold to Zephaniah Kingsley in 1805. Although little is known about his early life, at the time of his enslavement he was already an established conjurer. Jack was taken to Kingsley’s plantation in East Florida but shortly after was purchased by Paul Pritchard, a Charleston shipbuilder, to work on the docks as a joiner and caulker in April 1806.

As an urban slave with considerable skill as both a laborer and conjurer, Jack was able to live off Pritchard’s property and hired out his time around the city. Jack was well-respected as an African priest and an important member of the African church in the Hampstead neighborhood of Charleston. Jack held a great degree of influence over the African American community due to his connections within the church, his perceived spiritual authority as a healer, and his memorable physical appearance (he was remembered as having large whiskers).

Jack befriended Denmark Vesey around 1817. Vesey was a wealthy free slave whose influence in the community rivaled Jack’s. Together, these two men held considerable sway over the African American community in Charleston and in 1821 Vesey approached Jack about organizing a slave revolt in Charleston. Jack aided Vesey in the plans for the rebellion by acting as a recruiter at community meetings and utilizing his spiritual powers to perform elaborate initiation rituals to ensure loyalty to the cause. Later, a number of those involved in the revolt would claim that Jack controlled them by magic and that he was to blame for their wrongdoings during what was to become known as the Denmark Vesey Rebellion, the largest slave conspiracy in North American history.

In addition to recruiting participants, Jack also aided Vesey in planning to poison the Charleston water supply and they also planned to lead a contingent of Vesey’s followers to seize and distribute weapons throughout Charleston on the day of the rebellion. Things did not go as planned, however, when informers betrayed Vesey’s plans. On June 17, 1822, authorities began to gather conspirators in the plan for trial; Vesey and Pritchard evaded arrest even though their trial began on June 19. Vesey was captured on June 22 and although Pritchard and others schemed to free him, they were unsuccessful. Pritchard was captured on July 5, the day before another conspiracy was set to begin. On July 9, white authorities sentenced him to death for his role in the conspiracy.

Creator

Timbs, Elizabeth

Editor

Glovsky, David

Online Resources

"Denmark Vesey," This Far by Faith, https://www.pbs.org/thisfarbyfaith/people/denmark_vesey.html

“Sentence of Gullah Jack,” Africans in America, https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/part3/3h497t.html

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Bibliography

Egerton, Douglas. He Shall Go Free: The Lives of Denmark Vesey. New York: Rowman and Littlefield, 2004.


Millett, Nathaniel. "Pritchard, “Gullah” Jack." African American National Biography, edited by Ed. Henry Louis Gates Jr.. , edited by and Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham. . Oxford African American Studies Center, http://www.oxfordaasc.com/article/opr/t0001/e4741 (accessed Thu Sep 05 11:11:29 EDT 2019).


Robertson, David. Denmark Vesey. New York: Vintage Books, 2000.


Silverman, Susan, and Lois Walker. A Documented History of Gullah Jack Pritchard and the Denmark Vesey Slave Insurrection of 1822. Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen Press, 2001.

Denmark Vesey Memorial in Hampton Park, Charleston, South Carolina

Key Events

c. 1775-1800

“Gullah” Jack Pritchard is born in “M’Choolay Morcema” (perhaps modern Mozambique).

1805

Jack is captured and taken to Zanzibar, where he is sold to Zephanian Kingsley, a plantation owner from East Florida.

April 1806

Paul Pritchard, a South Carolina-based shipbuilder, purchases Jack from Kingsley and puts him to work on the docks of Charleston.

1817

Jack meets Denmark Vesey, a free slave who amassed a large amount of wealth for himself. These two men bond.

1821

According to confessions given during the Denmark Vesey trial, Vesey approaches Jack to plan a slave revolt in Charleston.

Early 1822

Jack begins going to local community meetings, recruiting participants for the forthcoming revolt. According to court records, recruits for the rebellion underwent an initiation ritual guided by Jack Pritchard, leading some to claim that he controlled their actions by magic.

Spring of 1822

Plans for the revolt move forward, with Jack amassing arms for use in the upcoming conflict and developing plans to spoil the Charleston water supply.

June 17, 1822

White authorities begin to round up conspirators after Vesey and Pritchard’s plans are betrayed. At first, Vesey and Pritchard evade authorities and continue with plans to move forward with the rebellion.

June 22, 1822

Vesey is captured by authorities and put on trial. He is hung on July 2, 1822. In spite of Vesey’s death, Pritchard continues to gather recruits with promises that the revolt would still take place.

July 5, 1822

Pritchard is captured by white authorities and tried for conspiracy. Testimonies centered on Pritchard’s magical abilities and his ability to control minds with his magic. Although Pritchard denied any role in the conspiracy, he was sentenced to death. He was hung publicly on July 12, 1822.