The Maroons: Africans who escaped from their captors


See the history of the Maroons, watch these video



In the New World, as early as 1512, enslaved Africans escaped from Spanish captors and either joined indigenous peoples or eked out a living on their own.[3] Sir Francis Drake enlisted severalcimarrones during his raids on the Spanish.[4] As early as 1655, escaped Africans had formed their own communities in inland Jamaica, and by the 18th century, Nanny Town and other villages began to fight for independent recognition.[5]

When runaway Blacks and Amerindians banded together and subsisted independently they were called Maroons. On the Caribbean islands, they formed bands and on some islands, armed camps. Maroon communities faced great odds to survive from colonists, obtain food for subsistence living, and to reproduce and increase their numbers. As the planters took over more land for crops, the Maroons began to lose ground on the small islands. Only on some of the larger islands were organized Maroon communities able to thrive by growing crops and hunting. Here they grew in number as more Blacks escaped from plantations and joined their bands. Seeking to separate themselves from Whites, the Maroons gained in power and amid increasing hostilities, they raided and pillaged plantations and harassed planters until the planters began to fear a massive revolt of the enslaved Blacks.[6]

The early Maroon communities were usually displaced. By 1700, Maroons had disappeared from the smaller islands. Survival was always difficult as the Maroons had to fight off attackers as well as attempt to grow food.[6] One of the most influential Maroons was François Mackandal, ahoungan, or voodoo priest, who led a six-year rebellion against the white plantation owners inHaiti that preceded the Haitian Revolution.[7]

In Cuba, there were maroon communities in the mountains, where African refugees who escaped the brutality of slavery and joined refugee Taínos.[8] Before roads were built into the mountains ofPuerto Rico, heavy brush kept many escaped maroons hidden in the southwestern hills where many also intermarried with the natives. Escaped Blacks sought refuge away from the coastal plantations of Ponce.[9] Remnants of these communities remain to this day (2006) for example inViñales, Cuba,[10] and Adjuntas, Puerto Rico.

Maroon communities emerged in many places in the Caribbean (St. Vincent and Dominica, for example), but none were seen as such a great threat to the British as the Jamaican Maroons.[11] A British governor signed a treaty in 1738 and 1739 promising them 2,500 acres (1,012 ha) in two locations, to bring an end to the warfare between the communities. In exchange they were to agree to capture other escaped Blacks. They were paid a bounty of two dollars for each African returned.[12]

Beginning in the late 17th century, Jamaican Maroons fought British colonists to a draw and eventually signed treaties in the 18th century that effectively freed them over 50 years before theabolition of the slave trade in 1807. To this day, the Jamaican Maroons are to a significant extent autonomous and separate from Jamaican society. The physical isolation used to their advantage by their ancestors has today led to their communities remaining among the most inaccessible on the island. In their largest town, Accompong, in the parish of St. Elizabeth, the Leeward Maroons still possess a vibrant community of about 600. Tours of the village are offered to foreigners and a large festival is put on every January 6 to commemorate the signing of the peace treaty with the British after the First Maroon War.[5][13]

In the plantation colony of Suriname, which the Dutch received from the English after signing theTreaty of Breda, escaped Blacks revolted and started to build their own villages from the end of the 17th century. As most of the plantations existed in the eastern part of the country, near theCommewijne River and Marowijne River, the Marronage (i.e., running away) took place along the river borders and sometimes across the borders of French Guiana. By 1740 the Maroons had formed clans and felt strong enough to challenge the Dutch colonists, forcing them to sign peace treaties. On October 10, 1760, the Ndyuka signed such a treaty forged by Adyáko Benti Basiton ofBoston, a former enslaved African from Jamaica who had learned to read and write and knew about the Jamaican treaty. The treaty is still important, as it defines the territorial rights of the Maroons in the gold-rich inlands of Suriname.[14]


Maroon village, Suriname River, 1955

Slaves escaped frequently within the first generation of their arrival from Africa and often preserved their African languagesand much of their culture and religion. African traditions include such things as the use of medicinal herbs together with special drums and dances when the herbs are administered to a sick person. Other African healing traditions and rites have survived through the centuries.

The jungles around the Caribbean Sea offered food, shelter, and isolation for the escaped slaves. Maroons sustained themselves by growing vegetables and hunting. Their survival depended upon military abilities and culture of these communities, using guerrilla tactics and heavily fortified dwellings involving traps and diversions. Some defined leaving the community as desertion and therefore punishable by death.[15] They also originally raided plantations. During these attacks, the maroons would burn crops, steal livestock and tools, kill slavemasters, and invite other slaves to join their communities. Individual groups of Maroons often allied themselves with the localindigenous tribes and occasionally assimilated into these populations. Maroons played an important role in the histories of BrazilSurinamePuerto RicoHaitiDominican RepublicCuba, and Jamaica.

There is much variety among Maroon cultural groups because of differences in history, geography, African nationality, and the culture of indigenous people throughout the Western hemisphere.

Maroon settlements often possessed a clannish, outsider identity. They sometimes developedCreole languages by mixing European tongues with their original African languages. One such Maroon Creole language, in Suriname, is Saramaccan. At other times, the Maroons would adopt variations of local European language (Creolization) as a common tongue, for members of the community frequently spoke a variety of mother tongues.[15]

As highlighted by historical data, slaves never came from a unique region and the Noir Marron gene pool has also kept this characteristic. Indeed, other ancestries are detected in uniparental systems, in a sex-biased manner, contradictory to the Gold Coast and the Bight of Benin origin. The majority of the remaining maternal ancestry is located in the Bight of Biafra (LS = 0.19; mY = 0.13; Tables 2) and in South West Africa (LS = 0.28; mY = 0.23; Tables 2), while the largest part of the remaining paternal ancestry is located in the region of the Windward Coast, Senegambia and Sierra Leone (LS = 0.25; mY = 0.26; Tables 3). Thus, a sex-biased ancestry is detected in the Noir Marron gene pool. From a major origin in the Gold Coast and the Bight of Benin, a paternal gradient goes north, while a maternal gradient goes south. This divergent geographical gradient of the uniparental ancestries may be explained by regional-specific characteristics of trading during the Atlantic Slave Trade. In the Windward Coast, Senegambia and Sierra Leone, slave trade was also implied in the Trans-Saharan Slave Trade [94] in which women were more sold than men, reducing the number of women sent to the Americas. Men from these regions were judged by European settlers to be more robust than Angolans to work in the plantations, raising the demand of male slaves in these trading posts, such as in the Gorée Island. The maternal gradient, more surprisingly, may be the consequence of these practices. The rising price of male slaves from the Windward Coast, Senegambia and Sierra Leone would have forced the slavers to balance the cost of buying slaves in the south, where slave markets were created for the Atlantic Slave Trade, without competition from the Arab traders. Thus, in the Bight of Biafra and South West Africa, slavers could have bought more women to maintain a sex-ratio close to 2/3 men and 1/3 women [1].


Belonging to the wide African American cultural area, the Noir Marron in French Guiana is unique due to their African gene pool. Despite four centuries neighboured by Europeans and Amerindians with whom intense cultural exchanges were made, their maroon identity has limited gene flow. The conservation of the African diversity in each genetic system studied revealed a probable non-altered inheritance from their slave ancestors. A major origin was located on the Gold Coast and in the Bight of Benin; regions highly impacted by slavery. From this region, uniparental genetic markers showed a sex-biased origin, with the remaining male ancestry located from Senegal to Benin, and the remaining female ancestry from the Ivory Coast to Angola. Different historical and cultural traits of the Slave Trade have created a differential migration of the female and male enslaved ancestors of the Noir Marron. Thus, this sex-biased African ancestry is still genetically imprinted in the Noir Marron gene pool, a characteristic that deserves to be examined in other African American groups, such as the Creoles, in order to gain a relevant picture of the dynamics of the African gene flow that occurred during the Slave Trade.



See also the below site








See also

Ethnic Origins of Jamaican Runaway Slaves

Igbo people in Jamaica

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s