Wed | Feb 21, 2018

Letter of the Day | Celebrating and remembering Christmas 1831

Published:Wednesday | December 27, 2017 | 12:40 AM

THE EDITOR, Sir:

As we continue to celebrate Christmas and Kwanzaa at this time, I encourage us to pause and remember that on this day in 1831, during the Christmas season, many of the ancestors of the Jamaican people gave their lives for our freedom in a war that, although brutally suppressed by the British, ushered in Emancipation just a few years after. Today, December 27, hundreds of Jamaicans, including about 150 young people, will gather in St James to celebrate Right Honourable Samuel Sharpe and all the brave people from Morant Bay in the East to Montego Bay in the west, who fought with him in that 1831-32 Emancipation War that claimed the lives of more than 600 freedom fighters. These young people will participate in the annual “Flames of Freedom” run from Catadupa to Kensington, conceptualised by MP Derrick Kellier, pausing to celebrate and remember the warriors from plantations along the route, including Anchovy, Cambridge, Kensington, Montpelier, Springfield and Springmount.

This year, with support from the National Council on Reparation and Honourable Olivia Grange, who has portfolio responsibility for reparation, they will be joined by those carrying the baton in the youth “Run for Reparation” relay that started on October 10 and will culminate in a huge Rally at Tulloch Castle, scene of the fire that signalled that Africans were at war with Britain in 1831.  Lest we forget, when that war was all over, sentences were handed down that illustrated the heartless nature of the colonisers. Based on the (conservative) official estimates, some 619 black people and their free supporters were killed - 307 in open war and some 312 executed by the Slave Courts and the Courts Martial.Some 14 whites and three free coloureds were killed and 12 whites and two free coloureds wounded in the suppression. According to Historian Michael Craton, of those executed, 28 per cent were shot and 72 per cent hanged. Others were transported, whipped and/or imprisoned. In addition to Samuel Sharpe, among those from St James who were executed and who we celebrate and remember today are young black men James Anglin, Stephen Allen, Robert Bowen, Sam Clarke, Thomas Galloway, Charles and John Gordon, Blacksmith James, George Kerr, Henry Miller and William Richards. Not to be forgotten are Bina (100 lashes) and Kitty Scarlett, deported because she was too “dangerous” to be executed or be allowed to remain in Jamaica to inspire future wars.

I end by wishing all Jamaicans Happy Holidays and join with all who wish for a peaceful 2018 and an end to the blood-letting that has scarred this island from 1494 to the present and which was too often illustrated by acts such as those of 1831.32.

Verene A. Shepherd

Co-Chair, National Council on Reparation

verene.shepherd@uwimona.edu.jm