Maroon is taken from the word
marronage, or Spanish word Cimarron, and means
fugitive, or runaway. This is probably a derogatory word, similar to some
used to described escaped slaves in America.
It was a term given to slaves who escaped into the Mountains in Jamaica,
who formed independent settlements together.
Many of the
ancestors of present-day Jamaicans, like the Maroons, came from Africa.
However, because of the characteristics of the culture, their ancestors
brought and preserved, historians have been able to identify these forced
migrants, including many of the Maroons, as "Koromantis", people
from the Akan (Ghanaian) culture. Because of the persistence of earlier
generations, present-day descendents are able to see how their modern culture
Jamaican planter’s use of the term Koromanti was to refer to slaves purchased
from the Akan region of West Africa, presently known
as Ghana. In
the earliest years of the British settlement, the Koromantis were the most
stubborn, and yet, the most respected. Many of them were experienced with
military methods because of the fighting and wars they encountered in Africa.
They were a very proud and disciplined group. The British felt these
characteristics would make them good slaves; the Koromantis’ pride and
discipline might make them want to do their work to the best of their
often put them in charge of a certain section of a plantation to make sure
the others were working properly. Nevertheless, the Koromantis, who came from
an environment very similar to that of Jamaica,
were also able to rebel against slavery and create a Maroon community in the Blue
Mountains, as well as the Mountains of, St.
Ann, Clarendon, and Elizabeth.
While the planters feared to pursue the runaways into the hills, the
Koromanti used the mountains and their own disciplined way of life as an
advantage. In the mountains, they developed their own way of life by
incorporating the various cultures with those of the other runaway slaves who
made up diverse Maroon Cultures.
The Maroons were
runaways, rebels unwilling to yield to the oppressive forces of slavery. The
most famous Maroon military leader was a woman, that is right, Granny Nanny. The
British lived to regret the day they put Nanny on the slave boat. Nanny was
born in Africa (of the Ashanti
tribe) and brought to Jamaica
as a slave. The Ashanti’s
were one of the most powerful tribes of West Africa. The
women were held in the highest regard and participated in every aspect of
decision-making, even fighting and leading battles.
In Ashanti Culture, before decisions are made, the words, “Ye kop
bisa aberewa”, meaning, "We are going to consult the old woman", are spoken.
places the woman as the final arbiter in all decisions in the Ashanti community. When a tribunal sits to settle a case, its members
finally retire to make a decision and this final act culminating in giving
justice is referred to as "consulting the old woman." The woman is the custodian of all knowledge
and treasures of the community. Women are known as reputed connoisseurs and
must not be challenged in their specialty. It is only among themselves that
criticisms may be whispered and even insinuations made. However inferior an Ashanti woman may appear to an outside observer she is the final
decisive factor in all the activities of, and the arbiter of what is good or
bad for the whole community. Queen Nanny was about to open a can of “you know
what”, on her captures. "
Queen Nanny was enslaved, along with her five brothers. Instead of being a
respected vessel, through which life began, women in Jamaica
were reduced to laborers and breeders. Queen Nanny was not having any of this,
and together with her five brothers escaped to the mountains. They started the
first of many Maroon communities made up of escaped and freed slaves. The first
settlement, nestled in the Blue Mountains, was aptly
named Nanny Town.
Nanny Town was a
village in the Blue Mountains of Portland Parish, north-eastern Jamaica,
used as a stronghold for Maroons
(escaped slaves) led by Granny Nanny; the town held out against repeated British
attacks before being destroyed in 1734.
was born in Ghana, West Africa,
as a member of the Ashanti tribe, part of the Akan people.
She was enslaved
and brought to Jamaica.
Experiencing the cruel treatment of slaves on the Jamaican plantations,
she and her five brothers, Cudjoe, Accompong,
Johnny, Cuffy and Quao decided to join the autonomous African
community of Maroons. This community originated from people
formerly enslaved by the Spanish, who had refused to submit to British
control. This community developed as many more slaves escaped the plantations
and joined the Maroons. By the time of the First Maroon War,
the newly run away slaves were also known as Maroons.
then made the decision to split up in order to be able to organize better
resistance to the plantation economy across Jamaica
than was possible if they stuck together. Cudjoe went to Clarendon
where about a hundred Maroons from Cottawood soon joined him, while Accompong
went to St. Elizabeth, while Nanny and Quao made their way to Portland.
By 1720, Nanny and
Quao had organized and gained control of this town of Maroons
located in the Blue Mountains. It was around this time
that the town was given the title of Nanny
town encompassed more than 600
acres (2.4 km²) of land for the run away slaves to live as well as raise
animals and grow crops. Due to the town being led by Nanny and Quao, it was
organized very similar to a typical Ashanti
tribe in Africa.
The Maroons were
able to survive on the mountains by sending traders to the cities to exchange
food for weapons and cloth. The Maroons were also known for raiding plantations
for weapons and food, burning the plantation, and leading the slaves back to Nanny
town was an excellent location for
a stronghold due to it overlooking Stony River
via a 900-foot ridge making a surprise attack by the British virtually
impossible. The Maroons at Nanny town
also organized lookouts for such an attack as well as designated warriors who
could be summoned by the sound of a horn called an Abeng.
Granny Nanny was
very adept at organizing plans to free slaves. Over the span of fifty years,
Nanny has been credited with freeing over eight-hundred slaves. Nanny also
helped these slaves remain free and healthy due to her vast knowledge of herbs
and her role as a spiritual leader. However, freeing slaves upset the British
very much. Between 1728 and 1734, Nanny
town was attacked by the British
repeatedly, but not once was it harmed. This was accomplished due to the
Maroons being much more skilled in fighting in an area of high rainfall as well
as disguising themselves as bushes and trees. The Maroons also utilized decoys
to trick the British into a surprise attack. A non-disguised Maroon would run
out into view of the British and then in the direction of the fellow Maroons,
who were disguised, thus repeatedly crushing the British.
In 1994, Nanny’s
image was placed on a Jamaican Five-Hundred Dollar bill. This gesture immortalized her in the hearts
and minds of the Jamaican people.
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