Paul Bogle isn’t a well-known figure to Americans but in Jamaica, he’s a national hero. On October 11, 1865, the Baptist deacon led an armed rebellion against the white ruling colonial government.
Bogle was born between 1815 and 1822, raised in Stony Gut in the St. Thomas parish. He was a well-to-do farmer who aligned with fellow landowner and politician, George William Gordon. Gordon was a strong critic of Jamaica’s white governor Edward John Eyre, and Bogle shared his feelings.
Political strife in the country had grown to a fever pitch and the practices of the colonial government placed African Jamaicans at a disadvantage. While slavery ended on the island years ago and the right to vote was provided to men, many couldn’t afford the expensive polling taxes that would have allowed them to exercise their democratic rights.
On October 9, Bogle and others were protesting the arrest of an alleged trespasser on plantation lands, beating back police who retreated to Morant Bay, which is 25 miles east of Kingston.
On the actual day of the rebellion alongside his brother Moses, Bogle led hundreds of followers armed with machetes and sticks to the courthouse. A volunteer militia on behalf of the government open fired on Bogle’s group, killing seven. This angered the group and they torched the courthouse and killed government officials looking to escape.
Gov. Eyre ordered government troops to stop the rebellion and the clash resulted in around 500 people dead. Bogle and his brother were captured and so was Gordon, who the government suspected of planning the uprising. Bogle was executed by hanging on October 24, 1865.
The following year, a Royal Commission investigated the incident. Gov. Eyre’s actions and use of excessive force angered liberals in Britain who accused him of murder. He was formally ousted from his role and sent back to his home nation without facing charges. Jamaica was then named a Crown Colony and was granted true Independence from England in 1962.
Bogle did not live to see these things come to fruition, but he was forever immortalized in 1969 when he was named a National Hero of Jamaica.
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