As discussed in Part 8 of this series (Profiles in Africana Religion – Part 8: Samuel Sharpe and the Baptist War) the Baptist War was very impactful on the historical development of Jamaica. As well, this rebellion forces one to wrestle with how and why religious interpretation takes the form that it does. That is to say, Sharpe interpreted the meaning of the Bible in a way that benefitted him and his compatriots. Much the same way Turner interpreted the Bible and etherical messages he believed was receiving from God, Sharpe felt it was the Jamaicans’ divine right to rebel against unjust and hate-filled masters. Carrying on this legacy is a man by the name of Paul Bogle, who led the Monrant Bay Rebellion in an effort to achieve more rights and better conditions for the denizens of the island. The following discussion will display the history of the Monrant Bay rebellion, connect the dots between Sharpe and Bogle and investigate the dynamics and philosophy that shaped the uprising.
Bogle’s early life is not well known, except that he was born free sometime between 1820 and 1822. He grew up in St. Thomas Parish in Jamaica and became involved in the church at an early age. When he came of age he worked as a deacon and became heavily involved as an activist in the Monrant Bay community. In the community he was also a supporter and comrade of George William Gordon, one of the first Black politicians on the island. Being active in the community, Bogle’s main focus was centered on philanthropy – aiding the poor Black citizens of the Monrant Bay community transition from chattel to human. In such a position, he was poised to create change that would ultimately alter the complexion of the Island’s policies toward its African residents.
As a leader in the Monrant Bay community, Bogle keenly made his audiences aware of the issues of social justice that defined their lives. First, there was the problem of racial discrimination that planters would use to their advantage to maintain control of their workers lives and well-being. Second, like the US, being granted the right to vote did not automatically mean there was a clear path laid towards political and social freedom. Many of Jamaica’s residents were forced to pay a poll tax in order to vote, which was beyond the financial means of most of the newly freed residents of the Island. Lastly, for those who were able to acquire land after being granted freedom, much of the land left over to farm required a lot of work to produce results on top of having to deal with flooding and crop failures. And with little aid coming from the occupying government, freedom itself became a liability for many.
Furthermore, adding insult to the injury of the social circumstances in Monrant Bay, the rebellion in fact began as response to the dubious circumstances of a trial which took place on October 7th 1865 involving a Black man who was accused of trespassing. This trial triggered many emotions in Monrant Bay bringing out the worst of the protesters who were disenchanted by the system of oppression they lived under. During the trial one of Bogle’s cohort was removed from court and arrested for disturbing the proceedings. This arrest angered Bogle and the growing crowd for African dissidents even further leading them to engage the police in fisticuffs, freeing their compatriot in the process. On this day, upwards of 400 Africans fought with police and drove them from the Bay, a victory which ignited the community.
A couple days after this skirmish, on October 9th, arrest warrants were issued for Bogle and many others who resisted the police onslaught. In their effort to serving the warrants, police again were met with strong resistance at Monrant Bay causing them to fall back once again. After driving the police from their community for the second time, Bogle recognized the need to be more organized and began to gather townsfolk who were willing and able stand up to colonial forces. They developed a plan to march in mass to the courthouse on October 11th during the vestry meetings that were to take place. On the 11th Bogle and his followers marched down to the courthouse, numbering in the hundreds, in protest of their living conditions as well as mistreatment by the police and the courts. They were met with members of the local militia who were easily beaten by and forced to abandon the parish.
Bogle’s group had no qualms about using violence and fire to make their point; many where killed in the taking of the parish, as well rioters burned a number of buildings and businesses, including the courthouse. They were essentially too much for the colonial government to handle, therefore the colonists conscripted the help of local militia and Jamaican maroons. After two days colonial forces moved to retake Monrant Bay by force. The battle was fierce but the British forces eventually won out with very few able to escape. Bogle himself was caught by the Jamaican Maroons and was turned in to the colonial government. He was tried and executed quickly along with many others.
As a result of Bogle’s efforts, he has been upheld as a national folk hero in Jamaica, much like Sharpe. Not only are there monuments dedicated to him and the Monrant Bay Rebellion but as well there are a litany of folktales and songs written in his honor. To be clear, the effort to uphold certain heroes by successive generation speaks to a number of things that are culturally and philosophically relevant. To explain, iconography (hero worship to some) speaks to how a people see themselves in the past, present and future tense. That is to say, Bogle and others like him are instruments in which a people can reference when they are in need of spiritual strength and guidance. Furthermore, such an understanding of the past also feeds in to notions how a people want to grow and the direction they see their destiny heading. Kenneth Bilby author of the article "Picturing the Maroons in the Monrant Bay Rebellion: Complicating the Imagery of Commemoration”, states: “The canonization of Paul Bogle spurred the Maroons, like other Jamaicans, to give more thought than before to the Morant Bay rebellion as part of their history.” It is critical that such history is kept alive, particularly in light continued and constantly racial oppression.
 Jamaica Information Services – Paul Bogle. https://jis.gov.jm/information/heroes/paul-bogle/. Accessed November 2018.
 Jamaica Information Services – George William Gordon. https://jis.gov.jm/information/heroes/george-william-gordon/. Accessed November 2018. Peter Handford (2008). “Edward John Eyre and the Conflict of Laws.” Melbourne University Law Review. 32 (3): 822–860. Though he did not participate in the uprising Gordon was an advocate for the rebels and was accused of inciting them to riot. As such, after the rebellion he was tried for conspiracy and executed. After the execution the colonial governor who signed off on the execution, Edward John Eyre, came under fire for mishandling the uprising and the aftermath. Howard Johnson. "From Pariah to Patriot: The Posthumous Career of George William Gordon.” NWIG: New West Indian Guide / Nieuwe West-Indische Gids 81, no. 3/4 (2007): 197-218.
 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 Publishing, 1997) 10.
 Kevin O'Brien Chang, “Paul Bogle – Defender of the People”, The Gleaner, 25 July 2012. Again, these methods of voter control and suppression were widely used throughout the American South, until the 1960s through the work of the Civil Rights Movement.
 Gad Heuman, "The Killing Time": The Morant Bay Rebellion in Jamaica, (Nashville: University of Tennessee Press, 1995), 164-182. The trial itself seemed rather absurd as a man was being tried for trespassing on land that had been long abandoned.
 Ibid., 164-182.
 Kenneth Bilby. "Picturing the Maroons in the Monrant Bay Rebellion: Complicating the Imagery of Commemoration.” The Princeton University Library Chronicle 72, no. 2 (2011): 574-83.
 Ibid., 574.