The Baptist War – how 60,000 enslaved blacks in Jamaica resisted slavery (1831-1832)

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With numerous accounts of black people’s journey to freedom being unearthed these past few months, it is patent to boost some of the resistance put up by the Blacks to regain their freedom.

The Baptist war which lasted for 11 days, united over 60,000 Jamaicans, to fight for their freedom. History records that the number of those who took part in the rebellion were not up to the half population of the enslaved blacks in Jamaica. It further states that they numbered around 300,000 between 1831 – 1832

The majority of archaeologists termed it the “Baptists War” because of the majority of the blacks who rebelled against their oppressor, Europeans, we’re from the Baptist Church.

The Baptist war which was also called the “Christian Rebellion” was considered the largest slave rebellion in the British Caribbean.

The genesis of the rebellion began shortly after Christmas was celebrated on 25th of December. It was recorded that the rebels were largely the Baptist denomination.

The British were said to be outnumbered by the Black slaves with the ratio of 12:1. The enslaved overwhelmed the whites on the Island, which by far the largest British Caribbean colony. 

The debate on the abolition of slavery in he British parliament raised tensions. Jamaican planters, disturbed at that prospect, made controversial speeches and wrote articles in newspapers attacking emancipation. These actions led to discontent and agitation among the slave majority. They revolted partly in 1831 because of an economic depression that had an impact on some underprivileged whites and made them join the rebels.

Samuel “Daddy” Sharpe was an enslaved leader of the revolt whose movement had been restricted around the island. Samuel Sharpe was given the freedom to travel on a traditional holiday or religious service. He then used this little freedom to plan for the actual revolt.

In December 1831, Sharpe organized a group of leaders to stay behind and deliberate the plans for the revolt at the end of a regular prayer meeting. He admonished his followers citing examples from Guayana and Rebellions on the Caribbean Island and Demerara Slave Revolt in 1823. Samuel promised to see through his outlined plans, swearing on the bible.

On the 25th of December 1831, the leaders of the revolt decided to go on strike with the demands for more wage and freedom of time. They were determined not to return to work until the plantation owners agree on the terms. The full rebellion came about when the planters rebuffed their demands. Rebellions broke out of Kensington Estate near Montego on Monday,27th of December, 1831, as sugar cane fields were set ablaze.

The whites who stayed for Christmas holiday escaped to Montego and other nearby communities. The rebel military group is known as “The Black Regiment” led by a slave now known only as Colonel Johnson also included Christian Rebellion. The next day 28th of December, the Black Regiment defeated a unit of the local militia who retreated to Montego Bay while the regiment wiped out a number of estates.

The Black Regiment urged other slaves to join forces with them in burning the plantation fields and homes as they continue. They ambushed another smaller Black military unit of about one hundred and fifty rebels from the western end of Island as the riot gained more rhythm. One white and about twenty-five rebels were slaughtered in the conflict as they got defeated.

In the first week of January 1832, the revolt had died down as the Christian Rebellion ended the revolt. But the sporadic resistance continued for a couple of months as the rebels resorted to guerilla tactics while fighting in Jamaica’s mountainous interior.

The Baptist War affected Great Britain to adopt full freedom throughout all of its colonies, including the West Indies and Jamaica in 1838. It was thereafter reported that over two hundred rebels were killed along with fourteen free blacks who supported the rebellion at the end of the fighting.

Africh Royale

Africh Royale

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