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Paul Bogle (1822 – 24 October 1865) was a Jamaican Baptist deacon and is a National Hero of Jamaica. He was a leader of the 1865 Morant Bay Protesters, who agitated for justice and fair treatment for all the people in Jamaica. After leading the Morant Bay rebellion, Bogle was captured and hanged on 24 October 1865 in the Morant Bay Court House by the British authorities.
Bogle had become a friend of landowner and politician and fellow Baptist George William Gordon, who was instrumental in Bogle being appointed deacon of Stony Gut Baptist Church in 1864. In August 1865, Gordon attacked the British governor, Edward John Eyre, for sanctioning "everything done by the higher class to the oppression of the negroes". Bogle concentrated his activity on improving the conditions of the poor. As awareness of social injustices and people's grievances grew, Bogle led a group of small farmers 45 miles to Spanish Town where they hoped to discuss their grievances with Governor Eyre, but they were denied an audience. This left the people of Stony Gut with a lack of confidence and trust in the Government, and Bogle’s supporters grew in number.
The Morant Bay Rebellion
The seeds for the Morant Bay rebellion were sown on 7 October 1865 when Bogle and his supporters attended a trial for two men from Stony Gut. A black man was put on trial and imprisoned for trespassing on a long abandoned plantation. One member of Bogle’s group protested in the court over the unjust arrest, but was immediately arrested, angering the crowd further. He was rescued moments later, when Bogle and his men took to the market square, and retaliated. The police were severely beaten and forced to retreat.
On Monday, 9 October 1865, warrants were issued against Bogle and a number of others for riot and assault. The police arrived in Stony Gut to arrest Bogle but met with stiff resistance from the residents. They fought the police, again forcing them to retreat to Morant Bay.
A few days later on 11 October 1865 there was a vestry meeting in the Court House. Bogle and his followers, armed with sticks and machetes, went there. The authorities were shaken, and a few people in the crowd threw stones at the volunteer militia, who then fired into the crowd, killing seven people. The crowd retaliated by setting fire to the Court House and nearby buildings. When officials tried to leave the burning building, they were killed by the angry mob outside.
The reprisals came quickly; the troops destroyed Stony Gut and Bogle's chapel there. Gordon was arrested and taken by boat to Morant Bay, where he was tried for conspiracy and hanged on 23 October. Bogle was captured by the Jamaican Maroons militia and taken to Morant Bay, where, like Gordon, he was put on trial and hanged at the burnt-out courthouse the following day. In total, over 400 Black residents were killed and many more were flogged.
Back in Britain there was public outcry, and increased opposition from liberals against Eyre's handling of the situation, with accusations against him of murder. By the end of 1865 the "Governor Eyre Case" had become the subject of national debate. In January 1866, a Royal Commission was sent to investigate the events. Governor Eyre was suspended and recalled to England and eventually dismissed. Jamaica became a Crown Colony, governed directly from England. The "Eyre Controversy" turned into a long and increasingly public concern, dividing well-known figures of the day, and possibly contributing to the fall of the government. In 1866 John Stuart Mill set up and chaired the Jamaica Committee to examine the atrocities committed in Jamaica in the course of ending the rebellion. Thomas Carlyle set up a rival committee to defend Eyre. His supporters included John Ruskin, Charles Kingsley, Charles Dickens and Alfred, Lord Tennyson.
The Morant Bay rebellion turned out to be one of the defining points in Jamaica's struggle for both political and economical enhancement. Bogle’s demonstration ultimately achieved its objectives and paved the way for new attitudes.
Bogle is depicted on the heads side of the Jamaican 10 cent coin. His face was also depicted on the Jamaican two-dollar bill, from 1969 until 1989, when the two-dollar bill was phased out and no longer used in Jamaican currency.
The Paul Bogle High School in the parish of his birth is named after him.
In popular culture
Third World produced a song about Bogle's execution. Other reggae artists who have named and written songs in tribute to Paul Bogle include Lee Scratch Perry and a co-production between The Aggrovators, and the Revolutionaries.
In "So Much Things to Say", by Bob Marley & The Wailers (and subsequently covered by Lauryn Hill), Marley mentions Bogle in the same breath as Jesus Christ and Marcus Garvey, concluding that "I'll never forget no way they turned their backs on Paul Bogle, so don't you forget no youth who you are and where you stand in the struggle."
Paul Bogle and the events outlined above are the theme of "Ballard of 65" by General Trees.
The British rapper Akala references Bogle on the track "Maangamizi" from his album The Thieves Banquet, saying: "Probably don't know the Haitian revolution caused the French to sell half of America, nor know the role that Africans played in the Civil War for that same America. If you ain't heard of Nanny of the Maroons or Bogle, you probably believe what they told you".
Jamaican reggae and dancehall musician Junior Reid mentions Paul Bogle in the song "Same Boat", which recalls the era of slavery, by saying "Paul Bogle haffi run like Usain Bolt".
- Mary Dixon, The Morant Bay Rebellion: The Story of George William Gordon and Paul Bogle, Birmingham, UK: Handprint, 1990, 20 pp.
- Gad Heuman, "The Killing Time": The Morant Bay Rebellion in Jamaica, University of Tennessee Press, 1995, 222 pp.
- Dugdale-Pointon, T., "Paul Bogle, 1822-1865". Military History Encyclopedia on the Web, 22 September 2008.
- Kevin O'Brien Chang, "Paul Bogle - Defender Of The People", The Gleaner, 25 July 2012.
- E. L. Bute and H. J. P. Harmer, The Black Handbook: The People, History and Politics of Africa and the African Diaspora, London & Washington: Cassell, 1997; p. 10.
- "John Stuart Mill on the “atrocities” committed by Governor Eyre and his troops in putting down the Jamaica rebellion (1866)", The Portable Library of Liberty, 15 October 2007.