Queen Nanny and the Maroons
Queen Nanny (1685 or ‘86-1733) was an utter badass and a Jamaican National Hero. She made, what was at the time, the biggest superpower in the world, the British Empire, her bitch while outnumbered and outgunned and she did it for decades until they finally gave in.
Nanny was born to the Ashanti tribe in what is now Ghana and, like so many others, was captured and sold into bondage in the New World (as were her four brothers, Accompong, Johnny, Cudjoe, and Quao, who also became Maroon leaders).
I’m going to take the liberty of assuming their mom read the above at some point. Anyway, Nanny was likely sold to a sugarcane plantation in Saint Thomas Parish near Port Royal. Slavery on plantations was brutal no matter what they were growing, but worse even than the backbreaking work on American cotton, tobacco, and rice plantations were Caribbean sugarcane plantations. She eventually escaped and with the help of her brother Quao founded a village in the Blue Mountains that would become known as Nanny Town and served as the base of operations for her Windward Maroons (so named because they settled on the windward side of the island). Her other brothers joined them in hiding until they split up to organize Maroon communities across the island. Cudjoe set up a village in Saint Thomas village that became known as, uh, Cudjoe Town, Accompong settled Saint Elizabeth Parish that became known as…Accompong Town, and Quao and Nanny established several communities in Portland Parish with Nanny’s husband Adou.
I realize I been throwing the word “Maroon” around without really defining it, so let me do that now. Maroons were West African slaves and their descendants who escaped the plantations and took to the jungles and mountains in Jamaica’s interior to fight their oppressors. They often married into the native Arawak tribe, and had been doing so since the island was a Spanish colony known as Santiago, and together they fought Europeans and freedmen mercenaries.
Back to the queen.
Nanny was both an excellent tactician and strategist (there is a huge difference, as Robb Stark could tell you). She built a series of politically and economically connected villages that would trade with each other and other islands and they were all protected by a central government in Nanny Town. This system was modeled after the Ashanti tribal society that Nanny grew up with and it worked phenomenally, the villagers were free to grow crops, raise livestock, and they were safe from the British. Militarily, the Maroons excelled at guerrilla warfare. They developed jungle camouflage that doubled as armor and would force British and their mercenaries to track them into the jungles, up the mountains, and into Maroon territory where they were open to ambushes.
Not happy with just being free and out of the reach of slavers, Nanny and her Maroons would also make raids into towns and plantations to free more slaves. Over her lifetime she freed more than 800, and some estimates put that number at over 1000, slaves.
Unfortunately, Queen Nanny died during the First Maroon War in 1733 and the British destroyed destroyed Nanny Town in 1734. Despite her death, the Windward Maroons fought on and most went to join her brother Cudjoe and his Leeward Maroons in who were had set up on the…leeward…side…of the island (yeah, they weren’t the best at naming things). Five years later, Cudjoe got the British to agree to a peace treaty where the the Maroons would live free of the British (more or less, they had a British supervisor, but they weren’t forced back onto plantations and they had effective control of their parts of the island) and agreed to take up arms with the British if the Jamaica was attacked by a foreign army.
Queen Nanny is still remembered as one of Jamaica’s seven national heroes, and is the only woman among them. She’s also on the $500 bill, the largest note in circulation in Jamaica.
Black history, black excellence.