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SAMUEL SHARPE

Samuel Sharpe was an organizer of a slave rebellion in Jamaica which contributed to the abolition of slavery throughout the British colonial empire in 1838.

Background

  • Samuel Sharpe was born into slavery in 1799 in London.

  • Education

    • Sharpe was the property of a slaveowner who was sufficiently tolerant to provide him to opportunity to become literate.

    Career

    • Sharpe’s position as a class leader in the Baptist Church afforded him the opportunity to proselytize the plan and organize support for it. In the face of planters’ threats to resist the movement toward emancipation. Sharpe, guaranteed massive support from the slave population, decided to implement his campaign of passive resistance on December 28, 1831. But the planters learned of the proposed action. Troops were sent to St. James parish, where Sharpe lived and did most of his organizing.

      On the night of December 27, overzealous militants began to set fire to buildings and canefields, followed by similar action elsewhere. The government used this destruction of property as an excuse for massive retaliation against the slaves. More than 500 slaves and 14 whites were killed, with most of the slaves executed. Samuel Sharpe was hanged.

    Major achievements

    • Sharpe formulated a nonviolent course of passive resistance to end slavery in Jamaica, by which all slaves would simply cease working on an appointed day until they were paid for their labor.

    Religion

    The Baptist Church was becoming enormously popular among the slaves, particularly after the passage in Great Britain of a Humane Code in 1823-1824, which encouraged religious instruction of the slave population. The Baptist Church in the parish of St. James, where Sharpe lived, began to grow rapidly, and he became a church class leader.

    Views

    He was attracted to the Baptist Church because of its assertion that all people were bom equal in the sight of God and because of its opposition to slavery.

    SAMUEL SHARPE
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    Died May 23, 1881
    (aged 82)
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