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Article

Aaron Myers

In the first half of the nineteenth century, thousands of African slaves were involuntarily brought from the Calabar region of southwestern Nigeria to Cuba in order to labor on the sugar plantations. In Cuba, these enslaved people reconstructed aspects of their language (Igbo) and religious rituals in Abakuás, all-male organizations with closely guarded religious, musical, and dance traditions. The prototype for Cuba's Abakuás can be found in Calabar's leopard societies, groups of highly respected, accomplished men who adopted the leopard as a symbol of masculinity. Today as in the past, Abakuás are found predominantly in the city of Havana and the province of Matanzas and are united by a common African mythology and ritual system.

Abakuás preserve African traditions through performative ceremonies a complex system of signs and narratives in the Igbo language Customarily led by four leaders and eight subordinate officers members of the Abakuás seek to protect ...

Article

Anton  

Jean Mutaba Rahier

In 1553 Anton and twenty-two other slaves embarked from Cartagena de Indias, Colombia, as part of merchandise bound for the Peruvian port of Callao. The ship wrecked off the coast of Esmeraldas, and the twenty-three slaves killed their Spanish captors and escaped into the forest.

At that time various small indigenous groups inhabited central Esmeraldas: the Niguas, Yumbos, Campaces, Lachas, and Malabas. The first contact of the maroons was with the Niguas and the Yumbos. As the groups clashed, the maroons enjoyed an advantage in combat, owing to the surprise provoked by their arrival and the firearms they had liberated from the shipwreck. Anton was nicknamed “the big sorcerer,” and his witchcraft skills were also a decisive factor in instilling fear into the Niguas and gaining their respect.

Through Anton's leadership the maroons increasingly dominated the indigenous communities. Sebastian Alonso de Illescas gradually established himself as Anton s ...

Article

Boukman  

Paulette Poujol-Oriol

The man known as Boukman was born a slave in Jamaica, at that time a British colony in the Caribbean. No one knows for certain whether Boukman was his real name. He apparently learned to read and write, and always carried a book with him. Thus he acquired the nickname “Boukman,” meaning the man with a book, or the one who knows. It is thought that this was a man of knowledge for his epoch—a n'gan (in Haitian Creole a hougan), that is, a priest of Haiti's African-derived Vodou religion. Giant in stature, with a Herculean vigor, he was sold to a certain Turpin, the owner of a plantation in French-controlled Saint-Domingue (later to become Haiti). Appreciating Boukman's strength, his master gave him authority over his fellow slaves as a field commander. Boukman was also appointed a cocher coachman to drive his master about in his fancy ...

Article

As the son of a free Native American woman, José Leonardo Chirinos was born free. His father was a black slave of the Chirinos family, a prominent Creole family in what was then the Spanish colony of Venezuela. Chirinos was a tenant farmer and sharecropper in Coro, in northwestern Venezuela. He married an enslaved woman who belonged to a landowner named Don José Tellería. Chirinos accompanied Tellería on trips to Haiti and Curaçao, thereby learning of events outside Venezuela. In Haiti, then a French colony, he overheard discussions among black Haitians of their desire for liberty and equality. Because Chirinos had married a slave, his children were automatically slaves, and this increased his dislike for the institution of slavery

Chirinos emerged as leader of a rebellion that erupted near Coro on May 10, 1795 The insurgents called for the liberation of all slaves in Venezuela and demanded ...

Article

As with other maroon settlements (communities of runaway slaves) in the Americas, few records exist that explore the history and culture of the Peruvian settlement called Huachipa (1712–1713). Even scarcer is the information on the settlement's most notable leader, Francisco Congo. Also called Chavelilla, Congo had escaped from servitude in Pisco, near the capital city of Lima, and arrived in Huachipa in early 1713, shortly after its establishment. He was welcomed into the community by its leader, Martín Terranovo.

Named mayor and captain of the community Congo handled both administrative and military duties A struggle for leadership began among members of different African tribal groups in the community which eventually became a fight between Martín and Francisco Congo During the fight Congo was severely injured and left for dead He mysteriously recovered and killed Martín His amazing recovery led to a belief that his triumph was ...

Article

Cudjoe  

Alonford James Robinson

The life and death of the Jamaican maroon (fugitive slave), Cudjoe, has become a symbol of black resistance in Jamaica. Cudjoe's story as the eighteenth century leader of the Clarendon maroons has also been a contested part of Jamaican history. Early European descriptions painted a caricatured portrait of him, while black recollections portrayed him as a fearless soldier.

Cudjoe was among more than 500 African-born slaves in the Jamaican parish of St. Clarendon who escaped after a violent insurrection in 1690. Cudjoe emerged as leader of a loose confederation of runaway slaves who lived in the Clarendon hills. The Clarendon maroons, led by Cudjoe, organized themselves into small gangs that secretly wandered into white towns to steal food and weapons.

Even though the Clarendon maroons were disunited they became skilled soldiers and expert marksmen Under Cudjoe s leadership they defended their freedom in a series of small skirmishes ...

Article

Son of a minor cacique (chief) of the Bahoruco (steep mountains in southeastern Hispaniola) and an orphan since the massacre of the Indian chiefs of Xaragua by Nicolas Ovando, Enriquillo had been raised by Dominican monks, who taught him to speak, read, and write Spanish.

As happened with most Indians at the time, Enriquillo was given as a slave to a brutal Spaniard, Valenzuela, who abused him and tried to rape Enriquillo's young wife. Enriquillo escaped with his family, taking with him some Indian slaves, determined, like himself, to live free or die in the attempt.

Valenzuela pursued the fugitives with a troop of twelve armed Spanish soldiers and attacked Enriquillo s encampment Two Spaniards were killed others were wounded and Valenzuela was captured by Enriquillo s men On setting his old master free the rebel cacique sent him away with those words Thank God I am a Christian ...

Article

Maroons were a part of society wherever slavery existed in the Americas. When the environment was conducive to flight and isolation, and when protective cover proved effective, escaped slaves came together to form settled, structured communities. Maroon communities were particularly prevalent in plantation economies. Jamaica's plantations were typical of plantation economies in the Caribbean: African slaves outnumbered Europeans, it was common for owners to live away from their plantations, and because of the warm climate there were minimal clothing and shelter needs. These factors made it easier for slaves to escape.

Jamaica came under British rule in 1655 when Spanish settlers failed to repel invading soldiers under Oliver Cromwell Lord Protector of England When Spanish plantation owners fled from the British slaves found themselves free and they eventually moved into the remote areas of the Blue Mountains on the eastern side of the island The runaway slaves presented ...

Article

Article

Nick Nesbitt

Few historical facts are known regarding Jean Ignace's life prior to 1802, and much speculation has surrounded this protean figure of Afro-Guadeloupean identity. Ignace has variously been perceived as a ferocious brute, a proto-independence fighter, a noble hero of the black race, a former maroon slave and Dessalines-like figure, and a brave though strategically naive soldier. Born in Pointe-à-Pitre, most likely a free, mixed-race carpenter prior to the French abolition of slavery in 1794, he joined the colonial army sometime after the arrival of Victor Hugues in Guadeloupe in that same year.

The historical circumstances of Ignace and Louis Delgrès's revolt itself are, however, fairly certain. On May 5, 1802, a fleet of ships under the command of the French general Richepanse arrived in Guadeloupe. Like the troops of General Leclerc who at the same moment were engaged in an unsuccessful struggle to retain ...

Article

Jean Mutaba Rahier

Sebastián Alonso de Illescas was a ladino slave (a slave who had lived for some time in Spain, who could speak Spanish, and who had been baptized). He had taken the name of his Spanish owner after his confirmation in Seville. In 1553 he and twenty-two other slaves were embarked with merchandise on a ship going to the Peruvian port of Callao, where colonization was burgeoning. During the trip between Panama and Callao, a strong thunderstorm wrecked the ship against the reefs off the coast of the Ecuadorian province of Esmeraldas. The slaves killed the Spanish crew, then escaped into the forest, where they developed what some historians have called the Republic of Zambos. (A zamba[o] is a mixed-race person from both African and Native American ancestry.)

Under the group's first leader, Anton the maroons grew to dominate indigenous communities in the region The maroons took ...

Article

Paulette Poujol-Oriol

Though little is known about Makandal's early life and much of the information about him is shrouded in myth, this famous maroon has become a legendary figure. Most prominent historians do not mention him, but he has become a symbol of Haitian national identity, and all schoolchildren in Haiti learn about his life.

Makandal is said to have come to the French-ruled colony of Saint Domingue (now Haiti) around 1750. Slave traders had bought him on the coast of Guinea, in Africa, and he was taken to the colony, where he worked as a field hand.

According to accounts of his life, Makandal did not submit to slavery for very long. He soon escaped to the woods, becoming a maroon a fugitive slave Prizes were offered for his capture but he escaped all ambushes It is also said that Makandal was a learned man that he ...

Article

Aaron Myers

From the beginning of slavery in the Americas in the sixteenth century through abolition in the nineteenth century, male and female slaves escaped from plantations and established semi-independent, self-governing communities. These communities were often located in inaccessible areas, such as forests, swamps, and mountains. They were known variously as palenques, quilombos, mocambos, cumbes, mambises, ladeiras, and maroons. Over time the term maroon—derived from the Spanish cimarrón, which, in turn, is based on a Taíno word meaning “fugitive”—became the standard word for an individual escaped slave or a community of escaped slaves. The phenomenon of escaped slaves forming communities, known as maroonage, represented a common response to slavery throughout the Americas. Maroon communities ranged in size from small bands that came together for less than a year to powerful groups of thousands that survived for generations or even centuries.

Current scholarship on ...

Article

Nanny  

Nanny was said to have used supernatural powers in battles against the British. She was killed by a slave named Cuffe in 1733.

See also Jamaica; Maroonage in the Americas; Nanny Town.

Article

Alonford James Robinson

Nanny Town, which is now known as Mooretown, was one of five major eighteenth-century maroon communities in Jamaica. Located in the inaccessible Blue Mountain range of Portland parish, Nanny Town was home to the Windward or Eastern maroons. The town and its destruction by the British in 1734 have become a powerful symbol of slave resistance. The town's legendary leader was an African chief named Nanny, and her mysterious life and death have become an integral part of Jamaican history.

According to legend, Nanny was the wife or sister of the legendary maroon Cudjoe. She is described in myths as possessing impressive magical powers. Local oral tradition recalls how she was able to repel bullets fired from European guns, and how she could capture colonial soldiers in her boiling cauldron.

Colonial militias attacked the town named in Nanny s honor several times It fell victim to a ...

Article

Free mulatto (of mixed African and European descent) leader of an uprising against the French in the southern section of Saint-Domingue (now Haiti) in 1790. The rebellion was put down, and Ogé was captured. He died the following year from a punishment inflicted on him in prison.

Article

Nina Friedemann

The settlement of some 3,000 inhabitants, in the foothills of the Sierra de María, is 70 kilometers (43.75 miles) from Cartagena de Indias, which was the principal Caribbean port of the Transatlantic Slave Trade from the sixteenth century to the beginning of the nineteenth century. In Cartagena de Indias, resistance to slavery was constant. Those who were able to escape were known as cimarrones, a word that in the Americas was applied to insurgent Native Americans wild plants and fruits escaped domesticated animals and later runaway African slaves The slaves fled from the galleys of ships from mining operations from ranches and from domestic service after their escape they often came together to form small bands Many were able to settle in rough encampments protected by swamps and thick brush To protect themselves from the weapons and dogs of the Spanish slave hunting parties these communities surrounded ...

Article

There is little documentation regarding the life of François Dominique Toussaint Louverture before the first slave uprising in 1791 in Saint-Domingue (as Haiti was known before independence). According to contemporary oral accounts, his parents were from Dahomey (present-day Benin), and his father was a powerful chief in that country before his enslavement. Toussaint was the first of eight children born on the Bréda plantation, near the northern coast of Saint-Domingue. Born in the French colony, and familiar with its culture, Toussaint was considered a Creole rather than an African, which—according to the logic of European colonialism—guaranteed him a more elevated social status. This status, and the plantation owner's affection for him, freed Toussaint from ever having to toil in the sugarcane fields. Instead, he worked as a domestic servant in the plantation house. Toussaint was emancipated in 1776 at the young age of thirty-three. In 1779 he rented ...

Article

Yanga  

Beginning in the 1560s the lowlands and foothills around the port of Veracruz on Mexico's Caribbean coast teemed with slave revolts and sporadic attacks on settlements by maroons, or escaped slaves. It is likely but not certain that Yanga participated in or even led many of these attacks. The inaccessible jungle-covered mountains lying inland from Veracruz favored the maroons, who established small settlements there called palenques. From the palenques, the maroons stepped up their attacks on nearby plantations and towns, destroying property and freeing slaves.

Local officials were sent out from time to time to destroy the palenques, but the maroons had situated them in such rugged locations that they were not easily overcome, and often the communities could not even be found. Reports indicate that by 1606 the maroons had made travel between Veracruz and Mexico City unsafe and costly a troublesome development since Veracruz was ...

Article

Zumbi  

Aaron Myers

Zumbi, the most vehement opponent of slavery in colonial Brazil, is closely linked with the settlement of Palmares, established by escaped slaves in Brazil's northeastern state of Alagoas. Escaped slaves first settled in this mountainous, forested region sometime between the end of the sixteenth century and the early years of seventeenth century. Because of the abundance of palms, the settlement became known as Palmares. During the Dutch occupation of northeastern Brazil (1630–1654), Palmares received a large number of fugitive slaves and grew into a formidable, populous federation of villages covering a vast area of land from northern Alagoas to southern Pernambuco. Palmares' sophisticated fortifications and well-equipped defense force enabled it to resist repeated military incursions following the expulsion of the Dutch until it was finally conquered in 1694 The story of Zumbi is closely tied to Palmares the largest and longest lasting quilombo in the history ...