KINGSTON, Jamaica, December 2021 - On April 19, 1832, the following sentence, signed by John Coates, Robert Thomas Downer and H. A. Plummer, was handed down against a man who all Jamaica should remember today, December 26, amidst the Christmas and Kwanzaa celebrations:
“The King against Samuel Sharpe- Tried and found guilty the 19th day of April 1832 -
Sentence – That the said Negro man slave named Samuel Sharpe be taken from hence to the place from whence he came and from thence to the place of Execution at such time and place as shall be appointed by His Excellency the Governor and there to be hanged by the neck until he be dead -
Just over a month later, on May 23, 1832, that execution was carried out. Sharpe had paid the ultimate price for his revolutionary thoughts and actions.
It is fitting that December 27 has been proclaimed Sam Sharpe Day by the Governor General Sir Patrick Allen; because the war for emancipation from chattel enslavement and British terrorism that Sharpe led, was a major one in the history of the British-colonized Caribbean.
A petition from enslavers to the Jamaica House of Assembly in 1832 described what they called “rebellion” but we know was a war, as one “unparalleled in the history of the colony, whether for depth of design or the extent of misery and ruin which it has entailed on the inhabitants”.
Those “inhabitants” to which the petitioners referred, were plantation owners and other enslavers whose wealth was threatened by African freedom.
They could not stop the tide of Emancipation, though. Africans before and After Sharpe, used every strategy at their disposal to ensure the defeat of enslavers.
Unfortunately, the effort to defeat true emancipation is in action on both sides of the Atlantic. For example, in the United Kingdom, a Cambridge College will face an Ecclesiastical Court in 2022 for daring to suggest that a memorial to someone who was an investor in the Royal African Company that trafficked Africans to Jamaica and other parts of the Caribbean be removed from a Church of England-controlled college chapel.
In Jamaica, calls for a shift from the monarchical system of government to a Republic is seen as mere symbolism rather than a final act of emancipation. It is time for us to lose our “intellectual timidity” as Hilary Beckles has said, and complete the mission of our ancestors; otherwise it would appear as if Daddy Sharpe and his army of revolutionaries died in vain and that his elevation to the status of National Hero of Jamaica was “mere symbolism.”