Photography album documenting the Morant Bay Rebellion, Jamaica 1865

Princeton University has recently acquired an album with 165 rare albumen photographs: 59 of the Morant Bay Rebellion in Jamaica (1865), 32 photographs of the Indian Northwest Frontier Hazara Campaign (1867-1870), and 64 others depicting Malta, Ireland, Guernsey, and elsewhere. The prints are primarily by unidentified amateur photographers, although there are 8 by Samuel Bourne, 5 by G. Sommer, 3 by William Lawrence, several by Francis Frith. On a post on the Princeton University Library blog—please see link below—you can find a description of the 59 photographs relating to the 1865 Morant Bay Rebellion. I have to thank Mimi Sheller for bringing this to our attention. Here are some excerpts from the post, which you can access in its entirety through the link below.

The events at Morant Bay in 1865 followed on the heels a period of public meetings known as the Underhill Meetings, and peaceful expression of grievances through petitions. Complaints included a series of economic issues related to wages, land tenure, access to markets, and labor rights; political issues related to unfair taxation, no justice in the courts, and elite-biased government policies; and civil issues that included voting rights, and access to healthcare, education, and land. In that sense it was not a riot so much as a social movement, which was rejected by the Governor and finally turned to violence against the representatives of the local government.

Here is a basic description of the facts of what took place before the government sent in military reinforcements to “suppress” the rebellion. During a trial for trespass held in the Morant Bay Court House on the 7th of October 1865, James Geoghagan disrupted proceedings by shouting that the defendant should not have to pay the costs. He was ordered out of the court. When he did not go quietly the Judge ordered his arrest. However, his sister Isabella challenged the police, and when they got outside a “mob” including the Native Baptist deacon Paul Bogle and some of his followers from the hamlet of Stony Gut rescued him from the police. The following day the police went up to Stony Gut to arrest those involved, but the policemen were instead captured and made to swear an oath to “cleave to the black”. To continue reading Dr. Sheller’s description, click on the extended entry link below.

Portraits of key figures from the rebellion tell more of the story. Among them are a page of portraits of “The Victims of the Jamaica Rebellion of 1865”, a portrait of George William Gordon who is now considered a Jamaican national hero, portraits of unidentified Jamaican natives, and of British Army officers. Listed among the victims are not only those who were murdered but also those in the colonial government who were later tried for murder and acquitted.

It is probable that these portraits were gathered after the rebellion and some may have been taken by the only commercial studio we can identify in Jamaica at the time, run by Adolphe Duperly (1801-1865) and taken over by his son, Armond.

Two small photographs of Jamaican Maroons, including one of Maroons in camouflage with Colonel Fyfe, reflect an interesting social dynamic in the rebellion. Originally runaway slaves who set up communities that engaged in guerrilla warfare against the British, the Maroons eventually cooperated with the British authorities after they started to deport them and confiscate their land in 1796. Used to suppress slave revolts until 1838, they were also used to suppress the 1865 rebellion.

For more (including numerous photographs) go to

http://blogs.princeton.edu/graphicarts/2009/10/album_covering_the_jamaica_reb.html

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