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Publication Type
Conference Proceedings
UWI Author(s)
Author, Analytic
Satchell, Veront M.
Author Role
Presenter
Author Affiliation
Department of History and Archaeology
Paper/Section Title
Religion and protest in Jamaica: Alexander Bedward and the Jamaican native baptist free church in August Town, Jamaica 1889-1921
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Proceedings Title
2nd Conference on Caribbean Culture and the Festival of the word
Date of Meeting
January 2002
Place of Meeting
Mona, Jamaica
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Abstract
The Jamaican Native Free Baptist Church/Bedwardism was one of Jamaica's most profound yet most harassed revivalist sects to have emerged in the island. Although Alexander Bedward was not the founder of this church, it was he who transformed it from just another revivalist church to its final position as a mass movement, the prototype of nationalist movement, and as such a forerunner to the Pan-Caribbean nationalist movement of the early twentieth century. To most Jamaicans, however, the name Alexander Bedward, the religious leader of this church is remembered only as a fanatic, schemer and lunatic from August Town, who encouraged his followers to sell all their possessions and journey to August Town, the headquarters of his Jamaica Native Baptist Free Church, to witness his 'flying off to heaven'. In reality, however, thousands of rural and urban lower class Jamaicans came under his influence. To them he was a prophet, shepherd, healer and most importantly their deliverer from racial, political and economic injustice and inequality. Consequently his church flourished throughout Jamaica and abroad, much to the disgust of the government, established churches and the upper classes. It is contended in this paper that Bedwardism, was much more than a religious denomination. It was a political movement taking a religious form and Bedward, its leader, rather than a lunatic was a politico-religious nationalist, who in a society marked by racism, economic oppression and social and political inequality for the black majority, dared to challenge the status quo on behalf of the oppressed. It was in order to quell him and to undermine this mass movement that he was branded a lunatic and confined to an asylum.....
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