Killens brings a novelist's imagination and a partisan's passion to his eulogy of Denmark Vesey, and the mix, always...

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GREAT GITTIN' UP MORNING: A Biography of Denmark Vesey

Killens brings a novelist's imagination and a partisan's passion to his eulogy of Denmark Vesey, and the mix, always powerful if at times heavyhanded, inflates Vesey's courage and vision to mythic proportions -- ""He had a rage to live, to drink the brimming cup of life to the full."" While directing accurate barbs at the complacency of white slaveowners, the author endorses the opinions of Vesey's admirers: the near idolatry of his submissive fifth wife Beck (Denmark's prowess as a lover is frequently invoked as secondary evidence of his manhood) and the faith of his followers who saw him as a messenger of God's wrath (Vesey overcame their scruples about the projected slaughter of white children by quoting Zechariah and intoning ""What's the sense of killing the lice and allowing the nits to live?""). A well-educated and prosperous freedman who won his own purchase price in a lottery, Vesey organized a conspiracy which, though abortive, involved hundreds and helped to explode the myth that slaves were contented with their lot. Based on the Trial Record of Denmark Vesey, the plot is consistently suspenseful, and the fictionally augmented account of his youth as the pampered but inwardly hostile servant of a slave trader provides convincing motivation. The slightly self-conscious paeans to Vesey's Blackness and the degree of fictionalization are somewhat superfluous since Vesey needs no buildup as a symbol of militancy, but the importance of the subject and the immanent enthusiasm of the author are redeeming.

Pub Date: Feb. 18, 1972

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1972