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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

Amador  

Gerhard Seibert

was the leader of a major slave revolt in 1595, which almost succeeded in defeating the Portuguese colonial authorities in São Tomé. The hitherto uninhabited island of São Tomé was discovered by Portuguese navigators around 1471, but the successful colonization of the island began only in 1493, when Portuguese colonists established sugarcane plantations to be worked by African slaves brought from the neighboring continent. In the sixteenth century the local sugar industry prospered; however, the island was marked by continuous political instability provoked by frequent power struggles among the governor, the Catholic bishop, and the town council, which was dominated by the sugar planters. Amador was a Creole slave, that is, a slave born on the island.

From the beginning slavery provoked resistance and smaller slave uprisings occurred before and after Amador s revolt In addition gangs of runaway slaves locally known as macambos established maroon communities ...

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

Bayano  

Jeremy Rich

fugitive slave and leader of an anticolonial rebellion in Panama, was born somewhere in Africa in the early decades of the sixteenth century. Nothing is known of his life prior to his enslavement and transport to the Americas. However, some have contended Bayano may have been a Mande-speaking Muslim from West Africa.

A Spanish ship carrying Bayano and 400 other slaves headed to the thinly populated colony of Panama in 1552. Smallpox and mistreatment had killed many Native Americans living in Panama, and so the Spanish government hoped to bring in these slaves as workers to replace indigenous people. However, the isthmus of Panama region also by this time had become a favored destination of many cimarrones (runaway slaves). Slave revolts had already taken place in Panama in 1525, 1530, and 1549 Slaves outnumbered free people in many Panamanian locales Bayano thus was well positioned to ...

Article

The Berbice slave rebellion began in February 1763. It was precipitated by the harsh conditions that existed on plantations in the Berbice colony (later part of British Guiana, present-day Guyana). The rebels were mostly African-born slaves from private plantations along the Canje and Berbice rivers. Kofi (Cuffy), an Akan slave, emerged as commander of the Berbice contingent and led the rebellion. The rebels intended to overthrow the Dutch or, short of that, to partition the colony between the Africans and Dutch. Kofi and the rebels forced the governor to abandon the seat of government at Fort Nassau and retreat with refugees to Daargradt plantation. Mercenary soldiers arrived from neighboring Dutch Guiana, allowing the Dutch to garrison Daargradt at the end of March.

Also that month, Kofi and his second-in-command, Akara, initiated an ongoing correspondence with the governor of Berbice, Wolfert van Hoogenheim Their letters attributed the ...

Article

Judith Morrison

Known also as Domingo Benkos Biohó, Dionisio Biohó, Rey (King) Benkos, Rey de la Matuna and Biohó Rey, Benkos Biohó is recognized for his rebellious leadership and for founding one of the longest surviving communities of escaped Africans in Spanish America. Born in Guinea-Bissau, on the western coast of Africa, Biohó was enslaved and taken to the South American slave port of Cartagena de Indias. In 1596 he was sold to Spanish colonizer Alonso del Campo, who baptized him Domingo (or Dionisio). In 1599 Biohó, claiming to have been a king in Africa, escaped along with several male and female slaves into the neighboring forests and marshlands known as the Matuna. There he founded one of the first palenques (rebel slave communities) in the Americas.

Biohó's leadership earned him the title Benkos meaning king He became renowned for his skill in administering ...

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

Vincent Carretta

The most important and one of the most widely published authors of African descent in the English‐speaking world of the 18th century. Equiano helped to found the genre of the slave narrative when he published The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African: Written by Himself in London in March 1789. The Interesting Narrative is a spiritual autobiography, captivity narrative, travel book, adventure tale, slavery narrative, economic treatise, apologia, and argument against the transatlantic slave trade and slavery. From its first appearance the Interesting Narrative has also been recognized as the classic description of an African society before contact with Europeans, as well as of the forced transatlantic transportation of enslaved Africans known since the 18th century as the Middle Passage.

By his own account, Equiano was born in 1745 in Eboe in the kingdom of Benin in what is now south ...

Article

Julien Fédon's rebellion, inspired by the French and Haitian revolutions, lasted more than a year. During that time 24,000 slaves left their estates to join Fédon, other free blacks, and French whites to fight for installation of Grenada within the French Republic as a free state without slavery. By February ...

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

Former slaves whose kidnapping case was fought by the 18th‐century abolitionist Granville Sharp. John Hylas and his wife, Mary, were both born in Barbados. In the year 1754 they were each brought to England—John by his mistress, Judith Aleyne, and Mary by her master and mistress, Mr and Mrs Newton. They met in England, and married with the consent of their owners in 1758. After their marriage John Hylas was set free, and the couple lived happily together until, in 1766, Mary was kidnapped by her former owners and sent to the West Indies to be sold as a slave.

Having heard of Granville Sharp's fight for the liberty of Jonathan Strong, in 1768 John Hylas approached Sharp, who prepared a memorandum enabling him to begin an action against Newton.

The court found in favour of Hylas, who was awarded 1s nominal ...

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

Kofi  

Jeremy Rich

anticolonial slave rebel leader, was born somewhere in southern Ghana sometime during the early eighteenth century. His name was extremely common in Akan-speaking communities such as the kingdom of Asante. Kofi was shipped from his homeland across the Atlantic and eventually made his way to the Dutch colony of Guyana. Kofi was said to have been a domestic servant. He worked with Accara and several other men to organize a major revolt along the Kanje River. On 23 February 1763 slaves rose up and burned plantations beginning at the Magdalenenburg settlement They also killed over thirty white settlers A yellow fever epidemic scoured the colony and provided Kofi with the perfect opportunity to launch the attack The goal of the rebels was to flee from the colony A small military expedition ordered by the Guyanese colony s governor Van Hogenheim failed utterly to curb the rebels Settlers from the ...

Article

Kofi  

Kofi worked as a cooper, making and repairing wooden casks on a plantation on the Berbice River. He emerged as leader of one faction of the Berbice slaves who rose up in rebellion in 1763 The rebels successfully held most of the territory of Berbice for ten months After ...