Nov 08

In Jamaica when slavery was at its peak a number of West Africans fled the plantations to form tribes in the mountains. These slaves were called a derogatory Spanish name “cimarrons” or “Maroons” which meant savage, but they were very civilized, and extremely organized with the intent of freeing their brothers and sisters.

The Maroon tribes are said to have inter-married with the native Arawak tribes of Jamaica and would train to become efficient fighters and masters at guerilla warfare. Slave masters would worry for their lives as these Maroons would routinely damage their property, liberate slaves, and fend off the attacking British soldiers whenever their settlements were besieged – which was quite often.

Societies of Maroons, or “runaways,” make up the core of communities that have preserved their identities as the pioneer freedom fighters of the New World. The colonies of escaped slaves who inhabited Jamaica’s interior 200-300 years ago (17th and 18th centuries) are for many Jamaicans a symbol of nationalism. In a new, harsh and mostly hostile environment, hunted own without mercy by colonial forces, these Maroons faced nothing less than a lifetime of fighting to retain freedom and a new

model playing nannyOne of Jamaica’s greatest folk heroes was the female leader of The Maroons named Grandy Nanny, or Queen Nanny; a Ghana-born warrior of the Ashanti tribe whose alleged use of Obeah magic and military tactics catapulted her name into infamy throughout the ages. Nanny established a settlement known as Nanny Town which was the refuge and training grounds for her Maroons and a place that saw many battles with British forces.

Nanny was a consummate leader in that she was both diplomatic and sharp when necessary. Her fame is mostly attributed to her numerous victories over the British who sought to crush her Nanny Town but failed repeatedly in their attempts. There was a time when the British took the town and Nanny retreated with her people up further into the Blue Mountains to rally. After the British converted the town into a fort she and her men raided it by surprise and reclaimed the territory.

She was not a normal woman by any means and her ascension to “Queen Mother” was due to her ability to lead. There haven’t been many documented reports on her but the few documents always go back to that fact – she was a brilliant general and Queen Mother to her people. As far as family, not much is known of Nanny’s people outside of the fact that she had a brother named Cudjoe who led a huge slave rebellion in 1738.

She was said to be a small wiry woman with piercing eyes and her influence over the Maroons appears to have been strong. So strong indeed, that it bordered on the supernatural and was said to be derived from her powers of Myal (i.e. ‘Good Obeah’). The Warrior Queen was particularly skilled in organizing the guerrilla warfare carried out by the Eastern Maroons to keep away the British troops who attempted to penetrate the mountains to overpower

Nanny’s Death

grandy nannyThe unfortunate fall of this wonderful woman is attributed to some slaves that were hired by the British to hunt down the runaways and kill them. The irony of this is disgusting when we look at slavery as a whole but the people who killed her were unable to stop Nanny Town or The Maroons. After seeing no way of winning against Nanny’s people – The British signed a treaty which gave them 2,500 acres of land in exchange for their services in protecting Jamaica from invaders.

The legacy of Nanny lives on to this day and her heroics are known to every Jamaican as an example of bravery, leadership, and perseverance.

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  • DrCarly

    Hi Dragon,
    Thank you for highlighting Nanny, who is an established and recognized heroine in Jamaica. So much so she graces one denotation of the Jamaican currency. To this day there are small colonies of Maroons in specific areas of Jamaica, and while integrated with all Jamaicans, have managed to isolate and maintain many of the traditions of their intraculture.

  • VeryImpressed

    Great and very informative article. You really communicated well all aspects and I walk away with a new understanding of a culture and its history.

    • Wow, you have paid me the highest compliment. Thanks so much and have a wonderful day!

  • davidkbryant

    You may be interested to hear that Queen Nanny plays an important role in my new novel “Tread Carefully on the Sea”> There’s more information at