slavepicWhen England seized Jamaica from Spain in 1655, the Africans held in bondage by the Spanish escaped into the interior of the island and began an 80 year struggle against the British. They came to be called Maroons. They set up independent African societies, complete with towns, crops and armies in the mountains and valleys of Jamaica.

Their ranks were constantly reinforced by runaways. Occasionally they would emerge from the interior and liberate entire plantations. Their activities sparked island-wide slave revolts in 1690 and 1734. Whole regiments of the British army were annihilated in battle with Maroon forces.

The British never defeated them. They made peace with the Maroons in 1739 recognizing their independence and their right to large areas of the island. These independent Maroon societies still exist in Jamaica. There were also powerful Maroon communities in the US and the Dutch South American colony, Suriname. On the North American mainland, as the original 13 British colonies expanded south and west, slaves would run away and join the Native Americans, or form their own independent African societies. As the colonies pushed into Florida, they fought several wars with the Africans and the Native Americans.

In the late 18th century, the seat of Maroon power in America was Fort Negro in northwest Florida. Here thousands of Africans held out for years against British and American armies. In central Florida, in the early 19th century, the Seminoles, a large group of Native Americans and Africans, fought the US army in the longest war in US history. Meanwhile, on the South American mainland, throughout the 18th century, Maroons, there sometimes called Bush Negroes, fought colonial armies to a standstill. Finally, like the Maroons in Jamaica, their independence was officially and fully recognized.

by Dr. Arthur Lewin, author of Africa Is Not A Country: It’s A Continent,