The Right Excellent Nanny of the Maroons National Hero of Jamaica
Nanny of the Maroons is a National Hero of Jamaica.
Nanny was born 1686 in Ghana, Western Africa, into the Ashantitribe, and was brought to Jamaica as a slave. It is believed that some of her family members were involved in intertribal conflict and her village was captured. Nanny and several relatives were sold as slaves and sent to Jamaica. Upon arrival in Jamaica, Nanny was likely sold to a plantation in Saint Thomas Parish, just outside of the Port Royalarea. Such plantations grew sugarcane as the main crop, and the slaves toiled under extremely harsh conditions.
As a child, Nanny was influenced by other slave leaders and maroons. She and her brothers, Accompong, Cudjoe, Johnny and Quao ran away from their plantation and hid in the Blue Mountainsarea of northern Saint Thomas Parish. While in hiding, they split up to organize more Maroon communities across Jamaica: Cudjoe went to Saint James Parishand organized a village, which was later named Cudjoe Town; Accompong settled in Saint Elizabeth Parish, in a community known as Accompong Town; Nanny and Quao founded communities in Portland Parish. She was married to a Maroon named Adou, but had no children.
Nanny and her brothers became folk heroes. Her most famous brother, Cudjoe, went on to lead several slave rebellions in Jamaica with the aid of her other brothers.
By 1720, Nanny and Quao had settled and controlled an area in the Blue Mountains. It was given the name Nanny Town, and consisted of the 500 acres (2.4 km²) of land granted to the runaway slaves. Nanny Town had a strategic location as it overlooked Stony River via a 900 foot (270 m) ridge making a surprise attack by the British practically impossible. The Maroons at Nanny Town also organized look-outs for such an attack as well as designated warriors who could be summoned by the sound of a horn called an Abeng.
Maroons at Nanny Town and similar communities survived by sending traders to the nearby market towns to exchange food for weapons and cloth. The community raised animals, hunted, and grew crops, and was organized very much like a typical Ashanti tribein Africa. The Maroons were also known for raiding plantations for weapons and food, burning the plantations, and leading slaves back to their communities.
Nanny was very adept at organizing plans to free slaves. For over 30 years, Nanny freed more than 800 slaves, and helped them to resettle in the Maroon community.
Nanny was a leader of the Maroons at the beginning of the 18th century. She was known by both the Maroons and the British settlers as an outstanding military leader who became, in her lifetime and after, a symbol of unity and strength for her people during times of crisis.
She was particularly important to them in the fierce fight with the British, during the First Maroon War from 1720 to 1739. Although she has been immortalised in songs and legends, certain facts about Nanny (or “Granny Nanny”, as she was affectionately known) have also been documented.
Both legends and documents refer to her as having exceptional leadership qualities. She was a small, wiry woman with piercing eyes. Her influence over the Maroons was so strong, that it seemed to be supernatural and was said to be connected to her powers of obeah. She was particularly skilled in organising the guerilla warfare carried out by the Eastern Maroons to keep away the British troops who attempted to penetrate the mountains to overpower them.
Her cleverness in planning guerilla warfare confused the British and their accounts of the fights reflect the surprise and fear which the Maroon traps caused among them.
Besides inspiring her people to ward off the troops, Nanny was also a type of chieftainess or wise woman of the village, who passed down legends and encouraged the continuation of customs, music and songs, that had come with the people from Africa, and which instilled in them confidence and pride.
Her spirit of freedom was so great that in 1739, when Quao signed the second Treaty (the first was signed bv Cudjoe for the Leeward Maroons a few months earlier) with the British, it is reported that Nanny was very angry and in disagreement with the principle of peace with the British, which she knew meant another form of subjugation.
There are many legends about Nanny among the Maroons. Some even claim that there were several women who were leaders of the Maroons during this period of history. But all the legends and documents refer to Nanny of the First Maroon War, as the most outstanding of them all, leading her people with courage and inspiring them to struggle to maintain that spirit of freedom, and life of independence, which was their rightful inheritance.
Death and legacy
In the Journal of the Assembly of Jamaica, 29–30 March 1733, we find a citation for "resolution, bravery and fidelity" awarded to "loyal slaves...under the command of Captain Sambo", namely William Cuffee, who was rewarded for having fought the Maroons in the First Maroon War and who is called "a very good party Negro, having killed Nanny, the rebels old obeah woman”. These hired soldiers were known as "Black Shots”. It is likely that Cuffee was motivated by the reward, a common practice by plantations to discourage slaves escaping.
Nanny's remains are buried at "Bump Grave" in Moore Town, one of the communities established by the Windward Maroons in Portland Parish.
Caribbean Elections provides comprehensive information on the electoral process, politics, and citizenship in the Caribbean. The portal includes election data and resources for the public, teachers, students, and researchers.