Call for Guest Contributors on the Black Atlantic, c. 1400-1860

Junto LogoCalling all contributors!

December 12-16, 2016. The Junto will host an online roundtable on new scholarship and historical themes that enhance our understanding of slavery and the Black Atlantic, c. 1400-1860. We welcome posts that approach these topics through a focus including—but not limited to—recent scholarship, teaching, public history, or historical memory.

We welcome guest posts, 700-900 words in length, by Wednesday, November 30th. After this point, we will continue to welcome submissions on a rolling basis that may or may not be part of this roundtable. Learn more about writing for The Junto here. We look forward to exploring this topic with you.

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    The Maroons began as communities of runaway African and Amerindian slaves, united in their desire to fight for freedom. The geography of Jamaica, and in particular the forests of the mountainous interior, provided these runaways with the security to form their independent communities. The colonial authorities fought the Maroons intermittently for decades, and continuously throughout the 1730s, in an attempt to root them out. Eventually, the colonial authorities had to admit that they were unable to defeat the Maroons, and offered them treaties. The Maroons accepted the terms because the continuous fighting had exhausted their communities, the Maroon communities were not a united front, and their leaders settled for this compromise with the colonial authorities in order to safeguard their independence. The Maroons signed two separate treaties, with the stronger Leeward Maroons able to bargain for more advantageous terms than the Windward Maroons. The treaties secured the collaboration of the Maroons, and while they nominally gained their independence, in reality the Maroons became more dependent on the patronage of the colonial authorities.

    Communities of runaway slaves existed in Jamaica ever since the English conquered the island from the Spanish in 1655. An early Spanish Maroon named Juan Lubolo was actually the first Jamaican Maroon leader to sign a treaty with the colonial authorities. The Maroon leaders, from Lubolo to Cudjoe and Quao, did not see themselves as liberators of slaves throughout Jamaica, but rather as leaders who wanted to protect the freedoms of the members of their respective towns. After the treaties of 1739 and 1740, the Maroons formed another class in Jamaican society, halfway between the white planter society at the top, and the black slaves at the bottom. Once the British forces recognised their right to exist, and acknowledged their status as free people of colour, the Maroons evolved from heroic black slaves fighting for freedom into collaborators with the colonial authorities, now seeking to maintain the system of slavery.

    The vast majority of those who joined the Maroons were African slaves who fled from the estates. Along with Brazil, Jamaica experienced a more continuous stream of intense slave revolts than any other colony in the New World. The early Maroons created communities mainly in eastern Jamaica, and their African origins were diverse. In the latter half of the seventeenth century, the largest group slaves imported into early English Jamaica came from southwest Africa in what is now Angola and the Congo, while a significant number came from the Slave Coast, in what is now Dahomey. During the eighteenth century, Jamaica imported more Akan slaves than any other group, and consequently the Maroons became more Akan in culture. A number of male Maroon leaders from both groups bore Akan names for days of the week, such as Cudjoe or Kojo (Monday), Quaco (Wednesday), Quao (Thursday) and Cuffee or Kofi (Friday).

    The runaway communities formed by the Maroons in the decades that followed the English conquest of Jamaica grew and thrived. Most of the black slaves taken by the English from the Spanish had, in a matter of months, escaped to join these early Maroons. For the first few decades, the focus was on eastern Jamaica, but a slave revolt in 1690 on Sutton’s estate in Clarendon resulted in a Maroon community forming in the leeward part of the island as well. The early Maroons of the Blue Mountains conducted a guerrilla campaign unfamiliar to English soldiers. From the safety of their mountain hideouts, they fought and killed soldiers, raided plantations, and disrupted nearby settlements on a regular basis throughout the latter half of the seventeenth century. With bases in both eastern and western Jamaica, the Maroons launched attacks on plantations on both sides of the island. They killed whites, burnt estates, and captured and rescued blacks from slavery in a war that escalated in the 1730s and seriously disrupted the island’s sugar economy. Cudjoe emerged as the most powerful Maroon leader during the course of the First Maroon War of the 1730s. The fighting intensified between the Maroons and the colonial authorities during the 1730s, and adversely affected the economy of the island. In contrast with the intermittent fighting in the decades leading up to the First Maroon War, the 1730s was a period of almost continual conflict.

    Cudjoe and his deputies accepted peace terms with the colonial authorities in order to preserve their Leeward Maroon communities. With peace secured with the Leeward Maroons, the colonial authorities turned their attention to securing terms with the Maroons in the eastern end of the island. The militia leaders informed the Windward Maroons that Cudjoe had agreed to peace terms, and that influenced Quao to come to the table.


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