Paul Bogle or Thomas Jennings? Black History tweet has Jamaicans, Americans divided on Twitter

Jamaica’s National Hero Paul Bogle or American pioneer Thomas Jennings? (Photo: Jamaica Information Service)

Another year and the legitimacy of Jamaican National Hero Paul Bogle’s image is being brought under scrutiny as a Black History tweet conflates the anti-slavery freedom fighter with American inventor Thomas L Jennings.

The (uncanny) similarity between the two black figures was made even more glaring for Jamaicans on Twitter, who were not so amused at the fact that Bogle seemed to not have an identity outside of his facial ‘linkages’ to Jennings.

Apparently, the image does belong to Jennings, with Jamaican officials claiming it was Bogle without authentication around the late 1960s.

Jennings, who is credited with being the father of modern-day dry cleaning, became the first African American to be awarded a patent in 1821.

It’s a conversation that happens like clockwork on social media around two times of the year, Black History and National Heritage months, but some Jamaicans, none the wiser, have contested the Jennings tweet claiming that the image bears the likeness of Paul Bogle.

The Colonial Standard, the state-run news arm of the British monarchy in Kingston, detailed in 1865 that Bogle’s physical attributes were much more defined.

An article, published on Wednesday, October 18, 1865 – listing Bogle as wanted following the death of St Thomas Custos Baron von Ketelhodt and fifteen vestrymen at the Morant Bay Court the week before – the embattled deacon was described as “a very black man, with shining skin, bearing heavy marks of smallpox on his face, and more especially on his nose.”

“[T]eeth good, large mouth with red, thick lips; about five feet eight inches in height, broad across the shoulders, carries himself indolently, and has no whiskers,” the bulletin, which disclosed a £2,000 reward for his capture, added.

It is unclear if there are any other records of Bogle, either as a citizen or the vilified ‘colonial criminal’ he was so described in centuries past.

The question also remains: Why, when many have uncovered the truth about the image’s disputed genuineness, is the likeness of Jennings still perpetuated as Bogle if, in truth, Bogle’s true identity has been lost?