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On the Shoulders of Giants: Queen Nanny

Born around 1686 in Ghana as a member of the Ashanti tribe, Nanny’s village was raided during inter-tribal conflict, she was captured and sold as a slave and shipped to Jamaica. Nanny was sold to the Saint Thomas Parish plantation which grew sugarcane; she and the other slaves were harvesting sugarcane under inhumane conditions. She was heavily influenced by the community leaders and the Maroons as a child. She and her four brothers escaped from their plantation and sought refuge within the Blue Mountains of northern Saint Thomas Parish. The five of them devised a plan to create more Maroon communities and their plans were successful; they created many communities in different cities across the Island. Around 1720, Nanny and her brother Quao created Nanny Town in the area of Blue Mountain where they were settled. This area of Nanny Town was about 500 acres of land.

They strategically chose that piece of land because it gave Nanny a vantage point overlooking the Stony River at 900 feet. That position eliminated any chance the British had of a surprise attack; she also placed look-outs around their area and kept warriors able to be summoned by the sound of the Abeng (Horn). The British often attacked Nanny Town but were not able to defeat the Maroons because of their location and tact. The Maroons created self-sustaining communities, traded food for weapons with local markets, raised animals and grew crops. They would often raid plantations for weapons and food, burn the plantations down, and lead the newly free people to their community; Nanny was praised heavily for her leadership skills. It is said that she gained her skills from her practice of Obeah, an African religion still practiced to this day. It is also believed she received her excellent leadership skills from her Ashanti culture, the Ashanti are known for possessing such skills. Nanny also used her knowledge of herbs and healing methods; she was known as a healer in her community for both the physical and spiritual ailments. In 1733, Nanny and her rebels were defeated in battle and Nanny lost her life that day. They were defeated by a person who was considered a “loyal slave” William Cuffee, he was the leader of hired soldiers called the “Black Shots.”

Slave owners often rewarded slaves for working on their behalf. In 1739, the British government promised the descendants of Nanny and the Maroons the land they inhabited via a peace treaty. Nanny’s remains are buried at “Bump Grave” in Moore Town, a community established by the Windward Maroons. The Maroons are descendants of West Africans imported by slavery and intermarried with the native Jamaican Islanders, the Arawak. The Maroons were known as fierce fighters and helped free slaves for over 150 years. Queen Nanny was a force to be reckoned with; she showed leadership and moxie better than any man could. She was brilliant and possessed the charisma to lead a well-oiled fighting machine. Nanny is someone we all should know and celebrate, she gave her life for the freedom of her people. Queen mother Nanny, we stand on your shoulders.

J.A. Ward.

Click here to get your copy of the On the Shoulders of Giants book series!!

References:

http://www.blackpast.org/gah/queen-nanny-maroons-1733

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nanny_of_the_Maroons

http://jamaicans.com/queennanny/

 

 

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