Abolitionist from his heart, Granville Sharpe

Granville Sharpe
Thu, 1735-11-10

Granville Sharpe was born on this date in 1735. He was a European abolitionist and philanthropist.

He was born in Durham, England, the son of an Episcopalian archdeacon. In 1748, Sharpe attended grammar school in Durham and then moved to London to work with a Quaker merchant. Over the next ten years he taught himself Greek and Hebrew. In 1765, he began working in civil service as a minor clerk. Sharpe had a brother who was a doctor in London. One day on a visit to his office he met a Black slave, Jonathon Strong, who had been beaten by his master and left to die. Sharpe's brother helped the slave recover.

Two years later the master spotted his slave, secretly sold him to another slave owner trying to conspire to have Strong kidnapped and sent back into slavery in Jamaica. Strong appealed to Sharpe for help. Sharpe brought his case before the Lord Mayor of London, who decided that Strong was a free man. Sharpe's 1769 anti-slavery publication provided legal arguments that attacked the ruling made by Yorke and Talbot in 1729 that slaves remain the property of their owners in England as well as in the colonies. Between 1765 and 1770, Sharpe also began defending "shanghai-ed" slaves and former slaves.

The courts never granted Sharpe a broad anti-slavery ruling, but the individual cases were usually decided in Sharpe's favor. In 1772, Sharpe was involved in another legal case that is historically called the Charter of Freedom. Here it was written, "England is a soil whose air is deemed too pure for slaves to breathe in." Sharpe also was involved in creating a colony in Africa for relocated slaves. Later known as Freetown, the colony was in present- day Sierra Leone. Though the colony was not well planned, 397 blacks sailed there, but ten years later the colony had failed.

Sharpe worked closely with Thomas Clarkson and William Wilberforce opposing the British war in 1776 with the United States. A co-founder of the American Episcopalian Church, in 1787, Sharp and others formed the Society for the Abolition of the Slave Trade. That same year he published his pamphlet, "A Summary View of the Slave Trade and of the Probable Consequences of Its Abolition." After the passing of the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act in 1807, Sharp and others formed the Society for the Mitigation and Gradual Abolition of Slavery.

Granville Sharp, however, was not to see the final abolition of slavery, dying on July 6, 1813.

The World Book Encyclopedia.
Copyright 1996, World Book, Inc.
ISBN 0-7166-0096-X

The Anti-Slavery Society

Person / name: 

Sharpe, Granville