This year saw a series of activities starting with the Distinguished Sam Sharpe Lecture on December 11 delivered by Dr. Simon Clarke, Chair of the National Council on Education and founding principal of the Sam Sharpe Teachers College college, at the College; an Official Church service at the the historic Salters Hill Baptist Church in Johns Hall. It culminated with a Torch Run from Catadupa to Kensington via Sam Sharpe Square and and a Civic Ceremony and Concert on Saturday, December 27, 2014 at the Tulloch Castle historical monument.
Flames of Freedom celebrates the resilient, dynamic, unflinching spirit of our National Hero, Rt. Excellent Samuel “Sam” Sharpe, who, in December 1831, led his fellow ‘slaves’ in a determined and defiant stance against slavery. For Sam Sharpe and his people, slavery was an instance of man’s inhumanity to man which should not be allowed to continue and for which he was prepared to give his life, and did. As he said in those famous words: “I would rather die on yonder gallows than live one more day of slavery”.
Sam Sharpe’s leadership of that famous strike that led to the burning of trash houses, great houses and plantations on December 27, 1831, was the final nail in the coffin of slavery and caused the British Parliament to vote two years later for the abolition of slavery in all British colonies. Indeed, our freedom and commitment to good working conditions pay tribute to this master strategist, social activist and Baptist preacher, Sam Sharpe, who, together with about five hundred (500) other blacks, suffered punishment and ultimately execution by the slave masters.
Member of Parliament for South St James Derrick Kellier, who has been spearheading the celebrations over the past fifteen years, says there needs to be more appreciation for the Sam Sharpe Rebellion observed on December 27 each year, described the rebellion celebration as "one of the most important events on the calendar of Jamaica's history".
"But over many years we have not taken the opportunity to fully celebrate or to commemorate it the way we should," he argued.
"I still believe that the history of Sam Sharpe's life is still a secret; the depth of his involvement is still a secret, and we have to work hard to spread his work right across the island. Because this event is going to grow with the support of the Baptist Union, some of the other churches and the cultural societies all over Jamaica and the heritage societies. We have to make this event the biggest event on Jamaica's calendar to rival Independence," Kellier said.
This year, the keynote address at the annual Flames of Freedom commemoration ceremony at Tulloch Castle historical site in Kensington St. James was delivered by Professor Verene Shepherd of the University of the West Indies who pointed out that the Emancipation War, also known as the Christmas Rebellion and the Baptist war, was not as spontaneous as some historians would want us to believe.
She said the records indicate that it was well planned by Sam Sharpe and his collaborators and encompassed parishes as far as St. Thomas in the East and St Thomas in the Vale as well as St. Elizabeth in the West.
She argued that the logistical requirements that demanded the simultaneous torching of so many plantations across the island at a particular time, could not have been accidental, and spoke to the organizational ability of Sam Sharpe and his rebel militia.
She pointed out the court records noted that many of the slaves who were placed on trial told the court that they know about the impending war for weeks but were sworn to silence.
The following is the full text of Professor Shepherd's presentation.
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