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The Real Former Enslaved Man Outer Banks’ Denmark Tanny Is Based On

Outer Banks season 2 gives more background on Denmark Tanny, including connections to the real-life historical Charleston man he’s based on.

Much of Outer Banks’ treasure lore is fabricated for the show, but Denmark Tanny is actually based on a real-life formerly enslaved man from Charleston, South Carolina named Denmark Vesey. The first season of Outer Banks follows adventurous teenage characters – the Pogues – in North Carolina’s Outer Banks beaches, who go on a treasure hunt to find the $400 million in gold left on a shipwreck from the 1800s. Season 2 follows the same kids, John B, Sarah, JJ, Kiara, and Pope, as they discover further treasures from the sunken Royal Merchant, including secrets about the shipwreck’s sole survivor, Denmark Tanny.


Outer Banks has been a breakout hit for Netflix over the course of its first two seasons, gaining a loyal following and even breaking some viewership records for Netflix during the initial release of season 2. In the era of enormously popular teen mystery series like Stranger ThingsOuter Banks has managed to leverage its gripping storyline, rich setting, and heartthrob-stocked cast to stand out from the crowd. Perhaps most significantly, however, is how the series incorporates real-world lore into its central mysteries.

Related: How Outer Banks Season 2 Sets Up A Kiara & JJ Romance

Outer Banks’ fictional history puts Denmark Tanny as one of the area’s early wealthy citizens, a formerly enslaved man who was a cook onboard the Royal Merchant until its sinking. Tanny was the only man who survived the shipwreck, bringing many of the ship’s treasures on land to build a community where he freed other enslaved people around North Carolina. His vast estate is currently known as Tannyhill, where Outer Banks‘ Ward Cameron and his family live on the wealthy Figure Eight part of the island.


The Real Historical Figure Outer Banks’ Denmark Tanny Is Based On

Denmark Tanny is inspired by South Carolina’s Denmark Vesey, a Black activist in Charleston who was born into slavery somewhere in the Caribbean in the late 1700s, eventually gaining his freedom after winning a lottery at age 32. After becoming a free man, Vesey, similar to Tanny, tried to purchase the freedom of his wife and children to no avail. Both the fictional Tanny and the real-life Vesey are well-known activists and leaders within their community as freedmen. Vesey founded an African Methodist Episcopal church, which is similar to Outer Banks’ Demark Tanny founding a church on the island to meet with the other enslaved men he freed (which also happened to be the location where he hid the Cross of Santo Domingo).


Considering part of Outer Banks season 2 also takes place in Charleston where the Limbreys held Denmark Tanny’s wife and children as slaves, the connection between the two men is no coincidence. Vesey and Tanny also met their demise in similar ways: at the plotting of wealthy white slave owners who had stakes in their families’ ownership. Vesey was executed for allegedly planning a widespread slave revolt to free his family, and Tanny for trying to free his wife and children, eventually being hanged after he buried his wife’s bones under a tree in the Outer Banks.

Denmark Vesey never came to a vast fortune nor was subject to a high-profile shipwreck, but his tale and tragic demise as reflected in Denmark Tanny contribute to the growing conversations on Outer Banks about racial and wealth inequality. Now that the Netflix TV show revealed Pope Heyward is a probable heir to the Royal Merchant’s treasures as a direct descendant of Denmark Tanny, the series will likely put much more effort into discussing his backstory and what it means for the family reclaiming Tannyhill. Outer Banks’ popularity may also inspire Charleston historians to put more research into Denmark Vesey’s story and his effects on Southern race relations in the Carolinas.


Related: Outer Banks: John B Already Has The Healing Shroud – Theory Explained

Everything We Know About Outer Banks Season 3

Chase Stokes as John B, Madelyn Cline as Sarah, Jonathan Daviss as Pope, Madison Bailey as Kiara, and Rudy Pankow as JJ in Outer Banks Season 2

Outer Banks season 3 was confirmed by Netflix in December of 2021, but an official release date has yet to be announced. Production on the new season began in February of 2022, with the Outer Banks cast (which still includes mainstays Madelyn Cline, Chase Stokes, Madison Bailey, Rudy Pankow, Jonathon Daviss, Carlacia Grant, and Drew Starkey) shown back on set in Charleston. Based on the timeline of previous seasons, this production schedule means Outer Banks season 3’s release date could arrive in late 2022 if everything goes smoothly.


As for the new season’s story, it should be a key factor moving forward that John B’s father was revealed as alive in the Outer Banks season 2 finale. He’s now implicated in the search for the Shroud of Turin, so this treasure hunt will likely be a major plot arc as well. The majority of Outer Banks season 3 is still up in the air, however, as the series’ showrunners have admitted they don’t have a master plan for where it’s headed, though they have ideas to continue Outer Banks through one or two more seasons after 3. In any case, Outer Banks season 3 is poised to draw a huge viewership when it arrives.

Next: Outer Banks Season 2 Ending Explained

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