Although Daddy Sharpe, written by Jamaican-born educator Fred W. Kennedy was published in 2008 and was previously launched in Jamaica and England, it was launched earlier this week in Toronto, Canada. As the author explains, Daddy Sharpe: A Narrative of the Life and Adventures of Samuel Sharpe, West Indian Slave – Written by Himself, 1832, is a “a fictionalized account of Sam Sharpe’s life, told, as I have been able to imagine it, from his point of view.”
Referencing the title of another slave narrative— The History of Mary Prince, a West Indian Slave, Related by Herself (first published in 1831)— Kennedy’s novel tells the story of Sam Sharpe, leader of the largest slave rebellion to take place in Jamaica. Although he was eventually hanged for his part in the rebellion, he has been credited with speeding up the date of emancipation for the slaves in the British colonies.
Kennedy, who was a teacher in Toronto for many years and then returned to Jamaica as principal of St. George’s College, explains that Sharpe became known as “Daddy” as a sign of his leadership and respected place in his community. “Daddies” were appointed by ministers of religion to help them administer to the large slave population, “so, they appointed those who were most reliable and in their opinion, could do the best work.” The author says that the hardest part to write was the section where Sam Sharpe walks bravely to the gallows, wearing a white suit sewn by his owners, adding that “his words are quoted directly from eyewitness accounts.”
Rachel Manley, daughter of former Prime Minister Michael Manley and author of Slipstream: A Daughter Remembers (2000) and Drumblair: Memories of a Jamaican Childhood (1996), states that this historical novel is extensively researched and that through it, Kennedy “has mastered the voices of the period and given flesh and blood and spirit to the legend of our national hero.” She considers Kennedy’s work to be an important contribution to “both our history and a growing body of Caribbean literature.” Manley adds that “Sam Sharpe will no longer be just a name we recite in school or at Heroes Day celebrations, or just a face we see on our paper money or a postage stamp. Fred Kennedy has recreated the mind and the man who seized the unique moment in history, to launch us on the road to eventual emancipation.”
In the photo featured here, author Fred Kennedy reads excerpts from the book at the Toronto launch.
For review by Dr. Albert Sangster, see http://www.jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20080720/arts/arts6.html
Also see, http://daddysharpe.com/