The Consulate General of Jamaica in New York inaugurates a film series to celebrate the country’s 50th anniversary of Independence and commemorate the spirit of sacrifice and leadership of the nation’s heroes. “Time of Fury – The 1865 Morant Bay Rebellion” chronicles arguably the bloodiest repression of dissent by the British colonial authorities in Jamaica during the post-emancipation era. The feature film, from the archives of the now defunct Jamaica Broadcasting Corporation, and directed by veteran broadcaster, Cary Robinson, producer of the ‘Hill & Gully’ TV Series, will be screened at the Bronx Bethany Church of the Nazarene, 971 East 227th St., on Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2012, starting at 6:30 p.m.
The dramatic epic “Time of Fury – The 1865 Morant Bay Rebellion” uses the medium of film to place in context the lives, struggles, and, personal sacrifices, of Paul Bogle, George William Gordon and their contemporaries, and response by the government of the day. As reported on Nov. 11, 1865, in less than a month of the island wide conflagration, the New York Times wrote, “It is calculated that about 1,800 of the insurrectionists have been killed in the different engagements that took place with the troops and volunteers, and up to the above-named date, 125 had suffered the extreme penalty of the law.”
Jamaica, this week, remembers its national heroes and the indelible mark they made in fashioning the nation’s history, strength of character and unique identity by challenging the injustices of colonialism, racism, and poverty.
Established in 1969, as the highest award to be conferred on any citizen who has “rendered the most distinguished service to the country”, the Order of National Hero has been conferred on one woman and six men: Nanny, outstanding military leader during the First Maroon War; Sam Sharpe, for leadership in the resistance against slavery during the rebellion of 1831; Paul Bogle and George Gordon, for their roles against social injustices in post-emancipation, colonial Jamaica during the rebellion of 1865; Marcus Garvey for his commitment to social and political betterment on the country’s racial majority; Alexander Bustamante and Norman Manley, as architects of political independence.
George William Gordon was born in 1820 to an enslaved black mother and a white plantation owner father. He was a shopkeeper, produce dealer, Baptist preacher and landowner. Gordon entered politics as an advocate for the poverty-stricken peasants in the largely rural parish of St. Thomas-in-the-East which he represented in House of Assembly. Additionally, his bitter criticism of Lt. Gov. Edward Eyre alienated him form much of the plantocracy.
There are conflicting reports if Paul Bogle was born free in 1820, 16 years before the end of slavery in the British Empire. However, by 1865 he was a Baptist deacon of significant reputation and one of handful of black landowners on the island with significant holdings. His 500 acres qualified him to vote in local elections and was a political adherent of Assembly member, George William Gordon.
Responding to the worsening social and economic situations in the decades following emancipation Paul Bogle led a delegation to take their complaints to the governor. The audience was denied. On Oct. 11, 1865, Bogle and about 300 men marched into Morant Bay and raided the police station. They then marched to the Court House where the local authorities were meeting. The resulting confrontation resulted in the governor’s representative and fifteen vestrymen being killed, 51 prisoners freed, and the courthouse razed. After the imposition of martial law, George William Gordon was seized from his home in southern parish of St. Andrew, convicted of treason and hanged on Oct. 23. Bogle was eventually captured by the Portland Maroons, was court marshaled and executed, along with his brother Moses, on Oct. 24.
The Morant Bay Rebellion and the resultant deaths of Bogle and Gordon precipitated the beginning of a new era in Jamaica’s development. The British colonial authorities were compelled to make reforms in the administration of education, health, local government, the courts, banking and infrastructure.
The screening of “Time of Fury – The 1865 Morant Bay Rebellion,” on the 147 anniversary of the revolt, will be held under the patronage of Consul General of Jamaica in New York, Hon. Herman LaMont and hosted by Rev. Sam Vassal of the Bronx Bethany Church of the Nazarene. The public is invited to this celebration of another aspect of Jamaica at 50, as we reflect on the past and reimagine the future.
For additional information for the Oct. 23, 2012, 6:30 p.m. community screening of “Time of Fury – The 1865 Morant Bay Rebellion” at the Bronx Bethany Church of the Nazarene, 971 East 227th St., Bronx, contact L. Christopher Castriota, community relations officer, Jamaica Consulate. Tel: (212) 935-9000 ext. #123.