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Morant Bay Rebellion

Conditions were hard for black peasants, due to social discrimination, flooding and crop failure, and epidemics. The required payment of poll taxes prevented most of them from voting.  In August 1865, Gordon criticised the British governor, Edward John Eyre, for sanctioning “everything done by the higher class to the oppression of the negroes” Bogle concentrated 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 the capital, Spanish Town, hoping to meet with Governor Eyre to discuss their issues, but they were denied an audience. The people of Stony Gut lost confidence and trust in the Governarchment, and Bogle’s supporters grew in number in the parish. On 7 October 1865, Bogle and some supporters killed two men from Stony Gut. A black man was convicted and sentenced to prison on charges of trespassing on a long abandoned plantation. One member of Bogle’s group protested in court over the case, 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.

Aims and Objectives

To established the 24 th of October as the Day of Commemoration for all Africans who died as a result of Slavery.
To get all 54 states of Africa to light one million candles every 24th of October.
To find rest for all the souls of our ancestors who did not get a burial.
To cleanse purge purify unite the peoples of my race
To assist in Africa’s Unity
To promote love and good will among all Africans home and abroad

 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, forcing them to retreat to Morant Bay. A few days later on 11 October 1865, there was a vestry meeting in the Court House. That day Bogle led hundreds of followers, armed with sticks and machetes, on a protest march to the court house. The authorities had mustered a volunteer militia, who fired into the protesters after stones were thrown, killing seven men. The protesters set fire to the Court House and nearby buildings. When officials tried to leave, several were killed by the angry mob outside; a total of 25 on both sides died that day. Black peasants rose up and took control of the parish for two days. The governor quickly retaliated, declaring martial law and ordering troops to capture the rebels and suppress the rebellion. The troops destroyed Stony Gut and Bogle’s chapel, killing more than 400 persons outright across the parish, including women and children. They arrested more than 300 persons, including Bogle.The Jamaican Maroons from Moore Town captured Bogle on behalf of the British military, and delivered him to the colonial authorities. He was tried under martial law and quickly executed, as were many others. Others, including women, and brought back to Morant Bay to be tried under martial law. Gordon was convicted of conspiracy and hanged on 23 October 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. Supporters praised the governor for acting quickly in the crisis to suppress a potentially larger rebellion. Bogle was later hanged on 24 October 1865.

Aftermath

By the end of 1865 the “Governor Eyre Case” had become the subject of widespread 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. The national government changed that of Jamaica. The House of Assembly resigned its charter, and Jamaica was made a Crown Colony, governed directly from Britain

The “Eyre Controversy” turned into a long and increasingly public issue, dividing well-known figures of the day. It may have contributed 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.

Paul Bogle's Legacy

In 1969 Paul Bogle was named a National Hero  along with George William Gordon, Marcus Garvey, Sir Alexander Bustamante and Norman Washington Manley. In the 1970s, two other National Heroes were added in the form of Samuel Sharpe and Queen Nanny of the Maroons. 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. The Paul Bogle High School in the parish of his birth is named after him. He is referred to together with Toussaint L’Ouverture, leader of the Haitian Revolution, in the name of the London-based publishing company Bogle-L’Ouverture.

The “Eyre Controversy” turned into a long and increasingly public issue, dividing well-known figures of the day. It may have contributed 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.

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Paul Bogle Foundation