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On July 2, 1822, a free Black pastor named Denmark Vesey was hanged in Charleston, South Carolina. Vesey had supposedly masterminded what would have been the largest slave revolt in American history, but he was betrayed by one of his co-conspirators. Though several of Vesey’s children were implicated in the plot, his twenty-two-year-old son Robert escaped punishment.

Two centuries later, Xavier Aubrey Spencer discovered a familial connection to the Veseys while researching his lineage. In the midst of the Civil War, Robert married Spencer’s ancestor, Hannah Nelson. Both the bride and groom were in their sixties and had been married before, but together, they navigated the uncertain racial constraint of Reconstruction.


A remarkable and original work of genealogical history, The Family Legacy of Denmark Vesey 1822-2022 follows seven generations of Spencer’s ancestors, from the transatlantic slave ships of the Caribbean to the plantations of South Carolina’s Lowcountry and finally to the hills of West Virginia and Ohio.

A fierce and headstrong "well-to-do" free Black woman who bought her own family’s freedom, Hannah must have recognized that same fire in the Vesey lineage. She would transmit that resiliency to her descendants as they faced the emergence of Jim Crow.

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Free Person of Color Badge 1783-1789

Courtesy of The Charleston Museum, Charleston, South Carolina

Slave Auction 1859

Courtesy of South Carolina Historical Society

The Relatives of Denmark Vesey in Court

March 1873

The Family Genogram



Courtesy of South Carolina Department of Archives and History



Xavier Aubrey Spencer, IMFT, CST is a licensed independent marriage and family therapist, American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT) Clinical fellow and American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists (AASECT) certified sex therapist based in Northeast Ohio, where he treats issues relating to intimate relationship discord, sexual health, and interpersonal communication in his private practice.


He studied Human Development at Pacific Oaks College and went on to receive his Master of Science in Marital and Family Therapy from Northwestern University, Center for Psychological and Family Studies at The Family Institute.


Xavier holds a post-graduate certificate in Sex Therapy from University of Michigan Sexual Health Program. In graduate school, he was the recipient of the Minority Fellowship Award from AAMFT for his commitment and dedication to the professional practice of marriage and family therapy.  




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