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The Americas

Caribbean Islands


Windward Maroons (Jamaica)

The Caribbean island of Jamaica is one of the four major islands which make up the Greater Antilles chain in the Americas, the westernmost group of West Indies islands in the Caribbean Sea. Three waves of human migration affected the island prior to the arrival of the Spanish at the end of the fifteenth century AD.

These were the Guana Hatabey hunter-gatherer people who reached the island between 5000-4000 BC, the Saladoid, an Arawak people, who arrived from early South America around AD 300, and then the Taino who got there around AD 600. The first group seem to have been entirely replaced by the second, while the second was accepted but enslaved by the third. Even the hard-fighting Taino, however, were no match for the military power of Europeans who arrived at the end of the fifteenth century AD, in the form of the Spanish empire.

An epidemic, either of swine influenza or smallpox, had already struck the islands of the Antilles chain in 1492 - of which Jamaica was a part - and would result in the general disappearance of the native population on most Caribbean islands within fifty years. In 1510 the Spanish Colonies established a governorship of 'Spanish' Jamaica, but this would face increasingly hostile actions by other Europeans as swashbuckling piracy took hold in the Caribbean Sea. In 1655, England launched an amphibious operation in the Caribbean which resulted in the capture of Jamaica and Hispaniola.

However, the sudden removal of Spanish controls over the island as a whole rather than the main towns which were the initial point of interest for the English meant that deliberately-freed Taino survivors and African slaves were able to flee to the wilder areas of eastern Jamaica. They were frequently bolstered in number by slave rebellions in the seventeenth century.

There was an early Maroon collective under one Juan de Serras which became known as the Karmahaly Maroons because they were based around Los Vermajales in the east. There were several other, smaller groups too, at least one of which operated on the side of the English against other Maroons. Some groups disappeared from history, while seemingly many early Maroons produced the initial members of the Windward Maroons.

Most likely the retreating remnants of the Karmahaly Maroons joined them in the 1670s and 1680s, haven been driven into the mountains by Sir Henry Morgan, landowner, former privateer, and current lieutenant-governor of 'British' Jamaica.

Once in the mountains the Maroons remained unconquered by the new English rulers of the island who referred to them as Windward Maroons to differentiate between the other main group in the island's centre, the Leeward Maroons. Both groups fought fiercely to retain their freedom. Peace was agreed between Great Britain and the Leeward Maroons in 1739, which granted the Maroons limited self-government. A couple months later Britain entered into a similar treaty with the Windward Maroons, although today's Jamaica has not yet addressed the subject of Maroon independence.

Perhaps the most revered leader of the Windward Maroons, certainly amongst their own members, was Queen Nanny, the spiritual, cultural, and military leader of the Windward Maroons between 1725-1740. Usually overlooked by historians in favour of male figures, she is now recognised in Jamaica as a national hero.

She was born in the Gold Coast of Africa (now Ghana) around the 1680s, perhaps amongst the Asante or other Akan groups. She came to Jamaica as a free woman and may even have had slaves of her own. She practiced a religion called Obeah, a combination of supernatural practices such as the casting of spells and conjuring of good luck and medical expertise around the use of plants and animal products. She was a master of guerrilla warfare and skilfully used camouflage and ambush tactics against the British.

Today the Windward Maroons inhabit three main communities, those of Moore Town, Charles Town, and Scotts Hall. The Maroons have avoided paying land taxes, despite government attempts to collect them. Frequent government raids on ganja farms (marijuana or cannabis is referred to as ganja by Jamaicans) has not deterred the Maroons from growing this illegal crop. The lack of employment opportunities which have led to emigration and a reduction in population is beginning to be offset by a growing emphasis on tourism.

Caribbean Islands

(Information by John De Cleene, with additional information from Spain in the Americas (National Geographic supplement, National Geographic Society, February 1992), from 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, Charles C Mann (Vintage, 2005), and from External Links: Embassy of Jamaica, and Jamaica (Flags of the World), and Jamaica (Rulers.org), and Jamaica Information Service, and The Taino of Jamaica (Jamaicans.com), and Famous Americans (Virtualology.com), and History of the Accompong Maroons (Jamaicans.com), and Jamaica (World Statesmen), and Cultural Survival, and Jamaica Development Trust.)


England declares war on Spain (in 1654) over the growing commercial rivalry between the two nations. Each side attacks the other's commercial and colonial interests in various ways, such as through privateering and naval expeditions. In 1655 England launches an amphibious operation in the Caribbean which results in the capture of Jamaica and Hispaniola from the Spanish Colonies.

1655 - 1657

The English rename the island from Santiago to Jamaica. It becomes a permanent English colony, one which at first is used as a hub for rum production and slave trading. Taino and African slaves who have been freed by the Spanish flee to remote areas of eastern Jamaica to establish several bands of Maroons who fight each other as well as the English.

Accompong Maroons, independent post-Spanish natives and ex-slaves on Jamaica
Shown here is Trelawney Town the later chief settlement of the Accompong Maroons on Jamaica, a group which was created out of Spanish interference and then the sudden removal of Spanish authority over the island

In central Jamaica, which is equally mountainous, a separate mixture of Taino survivors and Africans become known as the Accompong Maroons. They remain unconquered by the new English rulers of the island and fight fiercely to keep it that way.

Jamaica quickly becomes one of the most valuable English New World Colonies, with its foundation being based on slavery just like its preceding Spanish rulers. The notoriously horrible living conditions of the slaves and death from starvation, overwork, and torture means that the life expectancy of a West African slave is seven years.

The successful campaigns by Sir Henry Morgan in the 1670s and 1680s against the Karmahaly Maroons in eastern Jamaica drives the survivors into the nearby mountains where they most likely join with or create the core of the Windward Maroons.


Frequent slave revolts supply runaway slaves to augment the Maroon community. However, records concerning the community and its leaders are sparse, especially prior to the nineteenth century.

Warships of the English Civil War
Warships at the time of the English Civil War, with ninety of them mustered in Plymouth Sound in 1625 (with the kind permission of the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, Library of Toronto)

fl 1730s - 1750s


Maroon leader to the 1750s. Killed in 1754?


Two major conflicts take place between the Maroons of Jamaica and Great Britain. The First Maroon War largely concerns the Windward Maroons in the east (their key base of Nanny Town has already been destroyed, in 1734), and the Accompong Maroons in mountainous central Jamaica, whom the British refer to as Leeward Maroons. Peace treaties are signed between all of the parties.

The first of these is with the Accompong Maroons, granting them limited self-government and land. A couple of months later Great Britain enters into a similar treaty with the Windward Maroons.

The treaties, requiring as they do that the Maroons return runaway slaves, cause rifts among the Maroons themselves. Quao rebels against Edward Crawford in 1754 but the attempt is put down by fellow Windward Maroons.

Akan people
Akan people - photographed here around the beginning of the twentieth century - migrated into regions of modern Ghana from around the eleventh century AD, but probably in smaller family groups rather than as a single mass movement of people

fl 1750s - ?

Edward Crawford

Post-war leader based in Crawford's Town.


On Easter Monday, 7 April 1760, a group of enslaved Ghanaians in Jamaica under the leadership of 'Tacky' rise up against their British overseers in a violent and yet unsuccessful rebellion. Inspired by the Maroon wars, the enslaved rebels seek to overthrow the colonialists and create an independent black nation on the island. The rebellion ends in the death by suicide of many of the black participants.


The Christmas Rebellion, led by Sam Sharpe, begins on Jamaica's Kensington Estate in St James which is destroyed by fire. It takes five weeks for a British military crackdown to restore peace, but the effort places the final nail in the slavery coffin as far as the average Briton is concerned. Eighteen months later slavery is abolished throughout the empire.


As mentioned above, slavery, one of the key institutions in the economy of Jamaica, is abolished in the British Parliament by the 'Slavery Abolition Act'. The plantation system collapses. Unemployment and heavy taxation follow, bringing calamity to the Jamaican economy.

Jamaica's Blue Mountains
Jamaica's Blue Mountains form the longest mountain range along the eastern edge of Jamaica and feature majestic scenery while also being the source of the world-famous and highly fragrant Blue Mountain Coffee


The Accompong Maroons develop a draft constitution for the 'State of the Leeward Maroons', which confers upon all Maroons the same rights of citizenship which have been granted to all other Jamaicans.

1952 - 1964

Ernest Downer



Jamaica becomes independent of the United Kingdom. The Accompong Maroons maintain a claim upon their own independence, a matter which is not addressed by the Jamaican government.

1964 - 1995

Collin Lloyd George Harris


1995 - On

Wallace Sterling



At least two painful exchanges take place between island governments in the Caribbean and the earl and countess of Wessex during their week-long tour of the British-linked Caribbean islands. Comments during a meeting on Antigua & Barbuda makes likely a future pursuit of full independence.

Caribbean independence supporters in St Vincent in 2022
Protesters in St Vincent during the royal visit by the earl and countess of Wessex in 2022 showed that calls for independence were not going away

St Kitts & Nevis also reveals its plan to cut ties with the United Kingdom, with a growing sense of injustice around the former slave trade being used as a key point. Earlier in the year the same sentiment has already been echoed by the Bahamas, Belize, Grenada, and Jamaica.

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