Sam Sharpe is one of Jamaica's national heroes. He was an educated slave who led a peaceful protest that ended in a rebellion. Just before his execution, Sam Sharpe declared "I would rather die on yonder gallows, than live for a minute more in slavery". The rebellion, and Sharpe's subsequent execution, accelerated the abolition of slavery in Jamaica. The Government of Jamaica gave Sam Sharpe the posthumous designation of "Rt. Excellent", and the Sam Sharpe Teacher's College near Montego Bay was named in his honor.
"Sam Sharpe in Prison" is taken from Sir Philip Sherlock's Shout for Freedom.
Sam Sharpe in Prison
I love the strong and testing things, the horse
that will not take a bridle, mule
that kick and fight against the bit,
the bull that will not take a rope,
with these I love to test myself; the strength
that fight to do the most in that last stretch
of cane-piece work before the sundown time.
I love to row a boat against the sea,
to judge the waves and make the current help.
I love the strong and fighting things,
and I do miss the belly laugh at evening time,
and talk and singing with my brothers them
at night time on we mountain top.
And now the darkness fall upon them all
on Thomas Dove, and Gardner and on William James
from down at Ducketts; and on Johnson from Retrieve,
and Dehaney who did tell them straight
he know they have determined he must hang
so hang him then and he will take with him
whatever things he know,
and will not sign confession.
These all have gone. How I to stay?
These all be dead. How I to live?
Copyright Philip Sherlock 1987
From Our Yard. Jamaican Poetry Since Independence. No. 2 Jamaica 21 Anthology Series. Edited by Pamela Mordecai. Institute of Jamaica Publications Limited. 1987