It is the fall of 1821. A teenage slave girl, Lucinda, and her mother are sent from Radcliffe Place Plantation, where they’ve spent their lives, to Charleston as servants for their master’s sister. As they adapt to city life, they attend the all-black congregation of the African Church in the city. There Lucinda meets Denmark Vesey, once a slave but now free after winning the East Bay Lottery and buying his freedom.
By spring of 1822, the city is rocked with rumors of a violent slave revolt. Denmark Vesey has organized an army of insurrectionists through the African Methodist Episcopalian church in Charleston and help from the Voodoo Priest Gullah Jack. Vesey’s plan: masses of slaves will storm the gun stores and arsenals at midnight on a moonless night, pilfer weapons, burn the city to ashes, kill every white slaveholder in the city and escape by sail to Haiti or Africa.
Pitted against Charleston’s intendant, James H. Hamilton, Jr., Denmark Vesey goes into hiding as the plot begins to unravel. Slaves fold under threats and torture and Lucinda’s safety is threatened as the conflict between the powerful and the dispossessed grinds toward an inevitable conclusion.