Alexander Bedward

Alexander Bedward (born 1859 in St. Andrew, a rural parish north of Kingston, Jamaica - died 1930) was the founder of Bedwardism. He was one of the most successful preacher of Jamaican Revivalism.


After spending time in Panama, he return to Jamaica and was baptized by a local Baptist preacher. He became not merely leader of a Revival branch but of a new movement, the Bedwardites, with affiliated groups all over Jamaica and in Panama. In the 1880 he started to gather large groups of followers by conducting mass healings services. He identified himself with Paul Bogle, the Baptist leader of the Morant Bay rebellion. In this connection he stressed for changes and developments in the race relations in Jamaican society. He supposedly said ”There is a white wall and a black wall. And the white wall has been closing around the black wall: but now the black wall has become bigger than the white.”

Beward was arrested for sedition but sent to a mental asylum. On release he continued his role as a Revival healer and preacher. He stressed his followers to be self sufficient and at its height the movement gathered about 30,000 followers.

He led his followers into Garveyism by finding the charismatic metaphor: Bedward and Garvey were as Aaron and Moses, one the high priest, the other prophet, both leading the children of Israel out of exile. Garvey's middle name was considered by people to be a mix of the two names Moses and Messiah.

Later Bedward proclaimed that he was a reincarnation of Jesus Christ and that, like Elijah, he would ascend into heaven in a flaming chariot. He then expected to rain down fire on those that did not follow him, thereby destroying the whole world. In 1921 he and 800 followers marched in to Kingston “to do battle with his enemies.” This didn’t result in a fly to heaven but Bedward and his followers were arrested and he was sent to mental asylum for the second time where he remained to the end of his life. Like many of the ethiopianism.

His impact was that many of his followers became Garveyites and Rastafarians, bringing with them the experience of resisting the system and demanding changes of the colonial oppression and the white oppression. Rastafari has taken the idea of Garvey as a prophet but are leaning more to Garvey as John the Baptist. And Bedward plays a role in ethiopianism reaching its goal, that God is black.


One of the more famous followers of Bedwardism was Robert Hinds, Leonard Howells second in command.

See also


  • Jack A. Johnson- Hill, I-Sight: the world of Rastafari: An Interpretive Sociological Account of Rastafarian Ethics, Scarecrow Press, London (1995)
  • Barry Chevannes, Rastafari : roots and ideology, Syracuse Univ. Press, New York (1994)

External links

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