Sam Sharpe was born in 1780, and was the slave of an English lawyer of the same name who practiced in Montego Bay. He was baptized as a Baptist and became a lay deacon and appointed by the English Baptist Missionaries. Sharpe was a member of the Burchell Baptist church and became a daddy or leader in the congregation.
During Christmas 1831, enslaved black workers began demanding more freedom and a proper wage. They took an oath to stay away from work until their demands were met by the plantation owners. Sam Sharpe was the inspiration for the strike.
The uprising started on December 25, but exploded on December 27, when slaves set fire to Kensington estate, in the hills above Montego Bay. The rebellion lasted for 10 days and spread throughout the entire island, mobilizing as many as 60,000 of Jamaica’s enslaved population. It was the largest slave rebellion in Jamaica.
Sharpe was eventually captured and condemned to death by hanging. He was buried in the sands of Montego Bay Harbour but his remains were later recovered and buried beneath the pulpit at the Burchell Baptist Church in Montego Bay.
One year after Sharpe’s death, the UK parliament passed the Slavery Abolition Act.