Who Are The Maroons?

13 Jun

From the beginning of the middle passage right up to today, Africans have been fighting for their freedom and self determination.  We are often taught about how Abraham Lincoln helped black people in living in the United Sates by abolishing slavery.   We are also taught about the Underground Railroad.  

But we are never taught about Maroons.

So, who are the maroons?

Between the 15th and 19th centuries, in remote areas throughout the Americas and the Caribbean, hundreds of thousands of self-liberated Africans created hundreds of free communities in blatant and  vigorous defiance of the slave system. What?  Hundreds of thousands of self-liberated free black  communities, not slaves, living throughout the Americas? Can this be true? Yes it can and it is? These rightfully angry, indignant and brave men, women and children came to be known as “Maroons” and the free communities they created ‘Maroon Colonies” or “Quilombos” as they are known in Brazil.

“The word ‘Maroon’ comes from the Spanish word “Marronage”  derives from Spanish word  “cimarrón”–itself based on an Arawakan (Taino) Indian root (The Arawaks Indians, the original  inhabitants of the Caribbean were killed almost to the last by Columbus, his men and the advent of  the Europeans.) Cimarrón originally referred to domestic cattle that had taken to the hills in Hispaniola, and soon after it was applied to American Indian slaves who had escaped from the  Spaniards as well. By the end of the 1530s, the word had taken on strong connotations of being “fierce,” “wild” and “unbroken,” and was used primarily to refer to African-American runaways.”  These “maroons” would rather die fighting than live in bondage.  The largest known maroon colonies  were in Brazil.  One of the most famous Quilombos in Brazil was known as Palmares, where by the  1690s there are believed to have been about 20,000 inhabitants. Many of these maroon communities  fought with great skill and courage against tremendous odds to preserve their freedom. Some waged  devastating guerilla wars against their former masters, and several forced the European colonial  powers to sign treaties recognizing their right to govern themselves as free peoples, long, long before  the general emancipation from slavery. Today communities of Maroons survive in Jamaica, Suriname,  French Guiana, Colombia, Mexico, and the United States.

Learn More about Maroons


The Maroons of Jamaica 1655 – 1796 A History of Resistance Collaboration and Betrayal
by Mavis C. Campbell.  African World Press (1990)
Maroon Societies: Rebel Slave Communities in the Americas by Richard Price. The Johns Hopkins
University Press (1996)  
Saramaka Social Structure: Analysis of a Maroon Society in Surinam
by Richard Price. Institute of Caribbean Studies, University of Puerto Rico (1975)
The Guiana Maroons: A Historical and Bibliographical Introduction
by Richard Price. Johns Hopkins University Press (1976)
The Exiles of Florida: Or, the Crimes Committed by Our Government ...
by Joshua R. Giddings. BLACK CLASSIC PRESS (1997)
Flight to Freedom: African Runaways and Maroons in the Americas
by Alvin O. Thompson – History – University of West Indies Press (2006)
Maroon Heritage: Archaeological, Ethnographic, and Historical Perspectives
by E. Kofi Agorsah. (online book)
Global Dimensions of the African Diaspora by Joseph E. Harris; Howard University Press (1993)
(online book)
In Resistance: Studies in African, Caribbean, and Afro-American History by Gary Y. Okihiro;
University of Massachusetts (1986) (online book)             
West Indies Accounts: Essays on the History of the British Caribbean and the Atlantic Economy
by Roderick A. McDonald; University of the West Indies Press (1996) (online book)
Historical Archaeology: Back from the Edge by Pedro Paulo A. Funari, Martin Hall, Siân Jones;
Routledge (1999)
True-Born Maroons by Kenneth Bilby University Press of Florida (2007)
Black Indians: A Hidden Heritage by William Loren Katz (1997) (this book has some information
about Maroons.)  


2 Responses to “Who Are The Maroons?”

  1. ebonierika June 22, 2013 at 12:58 pm #

    Thank you! My girls and I learned about the maroons a few years back. Plan to forward this to them with all the links to encourage them to read and learn more.

    • Cassava Soul June 24, 2013 at 4:32 am #

      I am so glad you know about them. Most of the information about them is lost obviously because they were clandestine. Also, they lived lightly and left little of their material existence so archaeologists would find it hard to trace them. We can only guess at how many such communities existed from the very beginning of slavery and some still exist today. It is really fascinating to me. I hope your girls find the information useful. Blessings!

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