Gullah Jack

Gullah Jack Pritchard, African American folk hero and insurrectionist, began his American experience as a slave in the ownership of Zephaniah Kingsley. Acquired in 1806, Zephaniah Kingsley described him as a priest in his own country and stated that Jack kept a small conjure bag with him always. This fact demonstrates the consistent transference of African religious traditions to America, and provides more evidence to the theory that Zephaniah Kingsley allowed his slaves to worship as they saw fit rather than impose western religious beliefs on them. Zephaniah Kingsley sold Jack to South Carolinian Paul Pritchard in the same year of 1806 where Jack became a caulker in the Pritchard ship yard for much of his time in Charleston, South Carolina.

Gullah Jack's role in the attempted Denmark Vesey slave revolt made him infamous to South Carolinians of the mid-1800s. Described as a man of small stature with a massive beard of unkempt whiskers, Jack was known to have inspired both fear and respect in his fellow slaves as a result of his perceived powers to manipulate the spirit realm. He instructed his fellow rebels to keep crab claws with them and to only eat parched corn meal and a peanut butter-like mash before the rebellion. These measures were believed to protect against harm and capture through supernatural means. The insurrection failed and many of the participants were jailed and executed. Gullah Jack, for his role in the insurrection, was hanged and made an example of by the government. Though Gullah Jack Pritchard until recently has been maligned by history, he was a man willing to risk great danger in order to have freedom for both himself and fellow enslaved African Americans.

Last updated: April 14, 2015

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