Up to this point in Jamaican history, the island was divided into three classes:
- White men, who owned property, had professions and trades, were well-off, and spent their money freely.
White men who were almost slaves, brought from Britain as convicted criminals, deported to the island to work as slaves.If they survived the ordeal, they would eventually regain their freedom.
- Slaves from Africa, who worked hard, were poorly fed, and had no hope of freedom.
The maroons rallied to the cause of those that were enslaved.
Their leader, Nanny, was a symbol of unity and strength for the people in times of crisis.
Time and again, they held their own against British onslaught and would go on to make their mark in Jamaica’s history…read more…
Major Slave Rebellion
News finally came from the north that the American Colonies had broken allegiance with British Colonialism, and the French revolution had begun.
For the first time in Jamaican history, the slaves were encouraged to push for their freedom.
Numerous uprisings and revolts followed. One of the biggest uprising of all took place after Christmas in 1831 when approximately 20,000 slaves attacked and killed about 14 plantation owners, destroyed numerous crops and demanded their freedom.
What started out as passive resistance led by Sam Sharpe, turned into a deadly uprising. Sam and the rest of slaves decided that they would not work beyond Christmas unless their demand for better treatment was met.
By the first week of January 1832, the revolt was put down.
About 500 slaves were lynched, and several others whipped.
Sam Sharpe was hanged a few months later, but the damage was already done…the slaves “smelled” freedom and were willing to die for it…
Freedom finally came in 1838 four years after the Abolition Bill was passed by the British Parliament in 1834.
This was a major milestone in Jamaican history.
With cheap labor now gone, the plantation owners turned their attention to India and China and found “indentured servants.”
Production dropped and they had to change plans.