Thu | Oct 19, 2017

'We need more Paul Bogles'

Published:Friday | February 27, 2015 | 12:00 AMPaul H. Williams
Paul Bogle, courtesy of the Jamaica Historical Society.

During a Gleaner Editors' Forum, held yesterday at the newspaper's North Street, Kingston, offices, businessman Alston Stewart, a native of Wilmington, St Thomas, said the people of that parish need to take its development into their own hands.

While noting that St Thomas residents must use the "great potential" they have to do something about the poor state the parish is in, he referenced National Hero Paul Bogle as the leader they should emulate.

His suggestion comes against the backdrop that the economic and social challenges in the 1860s were not very different from those the people are facing today.

Yet, the Morant Bay Uprising took place in a different kind of context - a religious context.

Between 1860 and 1861, there was a Great Religious Revival. There were two streams of it: Zion, also called '60' from 1860, which is more Christian in orientation; and Pocomania, also called '61' from 1861, which is more African in orientation.

mood for change

For black people, this renewed freedom to express themselves spiritually was to coincide with the feelings of discontent that were fomenting in the land. There were political and economic crises, and the people were in a mood for change. This mood for change was reflected in the many riots and demonstrations, and the rise of religious practices across the country.

In his PhD thesis, University of the West Indies educator Dr Clinton Hutton said among other things, "Revival, embraced by the people, was just part of their day-to-day struggle against the injustice that Emancipation never got rid of."

One of the leaders against the injustice was Paul Bogle of Stony Gut, St Thomas. Bogle was a land owner, but he, too, was facing challenges. He returned frustrated, it seems, to Stony Gut after walking to Kingston with his followers and taking a train to Spanish Town to see the governor, who refused to give them audience.

But Bogle was not finished. On October 11, 1865, he led two bands of citizens on march from Stony Gut to Morant Bay, "heralded by the sound of horns, conch shells, fifes and drums, and armed with heavy sticks ... cutlasses ... long staves, some of them with spikes or cutlasses lashed to them ... ."

At Morant Bay, Bogle and his followers confronted the authorities, and a riot eventually ensued. When the mayhem was over way into the night, several people, including the custos of the parish, were either killed or injured. The courthouse, school, and other buildings were destroyed by fire. Bogle and his surviving followers fled to Stony Gut. He was captured on October 22, and hanged on the 24th, along with some of his followers.

Now, the question is: who, in St Thomas is prepared to be like Paul Bogle, and his followers?

Because, Stewart "would like to see St Thomas resume its leadership role in honouring the legacy of Paul Bogle".