Paul Bogle was a Jamaican Baptist deacon and activist and a national hero of Jamaica. He was a leader of the 1865 Morant Bay protesters, who marched for justice and fair treatment for all the people in Jamaica.
Paul Bogle was born in 1822 in Jamaica, possibly in Stony Gut, St Thomas. On October 11 1865 Paul Bogle lead approximately 300 black men and women into the town of Morant Bay, in what became known as the Morant Bay Rebellion. The group marched to the court house to protest about the arrest warrants but were met by a local militia who in panic opened fire and killed seven of the protesters.
The killings sparked a riot in which another 18 people died. What simply started out as a protest became an enormous rebellion, with the town under the control of the rebels whose numbers rose to around 2000.
White planters feared that the revolt would spread to the rest of Jamaica. British Governor of Jamaica, Edward Eyre, sent troops to quickly put down the uprising. But the uprising had calmed far from the armed insurrection perceived by the white population and the troops. However, this did not stop a brutal response with many deaths among the black population whether they had been involved in the uprising or not.
It was estimated that 439 black Jamaicans were killed by troops, 354 black Jamaicans were arrested and later executed and 600 punishments including floggings and prison sentences were carried out.
After leading the Morant Bay rebellion, Bogle was captured by government troops, tried and convicted by British authorities under martial law, and hanged on 24 October 1865 in the Morant Bay Court House. His friend and supporter George Gordon, who had very little to do with the uprising, was arrested in Kingston, tried under martial law and hanged a day before him on October 23, 1865. The rebellion and its effects had a huge impact on Jamaica and Britain at the time. In Britain it caused public debate with views being polarized into two camps – those supporting Governors Eyre’s response and those who believed that he should be tried for murder.
Paul Bogle was later named a National Hero of Jamaica and his head appeared on the Jamaican $2 note from 1969 until it was phased out in 1989, and on the 10c coin since 1991.