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Jamaican Maroons in Sierra Leone

The Jamaican Maroons in Sierra Leone were a group of just under 600 Jamaican Maroons from Cudjoe's Town (Trelawny Town), the largest of the five Maroon towns in Jamaica, who were deported by British forces following the Second Maroon War in 1796, first to Nova Scotia. Four years later in 1800, they were transported to Sierra Leone.

The Sierra Leone Company had established the settlement of Freetown and the Colony of Sierra Leone in 1792 for the resettlement of the African Americans who arrived via Nova Scotia after they had been evacuated as freedmen from the United States after the American Revolutionary War. Some Jamaican Maroons eventually returned to Jamaica, but most became part of the larger Creole or Creole people and culture made up of freemen and liberated slaves who joined them in the first half-century of the colony. For a long period, they dominated government and the economy of what developed into Sierra Leone.

Nova Scotia

Following their rebellion and surrender to the colonial government in the Second Maroon War of 1796, just under 600 Jamaican Maroons from Trelawny Town were deported to Nova Scotia.[1][2] Tired of the cost of maintaining order, the Jamaican government had decided to rid themselves of "the problem". Immediate actions were put in place for the removal of the Trelawny Maroons to Lower Canada (Quebec); Upper Canada (Ontario) had also been suggested as a suitable place. The British decided to send this group to Halifax, Nova Scotia, until any further instructions were received from England. William Quarrell and Alexander Ochterlony were sent from Jamaica with the Maroons as Commissioners. During the course of his administration, Ochterlony took half a dozen Maroon women as mistresses. Quarrell tried in vain to break up the Maroons as a community.[3]

On 26 June 1796, the ships Dover, Mary, and Anne sailed from Port Royal Harbour, Jamaica to Halifax. One arrived in Halifax on 21 July, the other two followed two days later, carrying, according to one historian, a total of 568 men, women and children.[4] According to another historian, about 581 Maroons from Trelawny Town left Jamaica, but 17 died on the voyage.[5] The Duke of Kent and Commander-in-Chief of the British Army in North America, impressed with the proud bearing and other characteristics of the Maroons, employed the group to work on the new fortifications at the Citadel Hill in Halifax. The Lieutenant-Governor Sir John Wentworth believed that the Maroons would be good settlers. He received orders from the Duke of Portland to settle them in Nova Scotia.

Following this the two commissioners responsible with credit of 25,000 Jamaican pounds from the government of Jamaica, expended £3,000 on 5,000 acres (20 km2) of land and built the community of Preston. Governor Wentworth was granted an allowance of £240 annually from England to provide religious instruction and schooling for the community. After the first winter, the Maroons, raised in an independent culture and warmer climate, and not impressed with what they considered the servile aspects of subsistence agriculture, became less tolerant of the conditions in which they were living. The colonel of the Trelawny Town Maroons, Montague James, wrote a number of petitions to England and Jamaica asking for them to be removed from Nova Scotia. The Maroon colonel sent one of junior officers, Charles Samuels (Maroon), to London to present information to Whig MP George Walpole about the terrible conditions they had to endure in Nova Scotia.[6]

Sierra Leone

The Sierra Leone Company decided to send the Maroons to its new colony of Freetown in present-day Sierra Leone (West Africa), which had been established for the Nova Scotian Settlers. The Maroon survivors from Nova Scotia were transported to Freetown in 1800, in the early years of the colony.

The final leg of their journey was aboard HMS Asia. She arrived at Halifax on 31 May 1800, presumably still under her captain from 1796, Robert Murray, to pick up the Maroons, sailed again with them on 8 August, and arrived in Sierra Leone on 30 September that year.[7] The Maroons helped the British to put down a rebellion by the Black Nova Scotians, after which they received the best land and houses.[8]

In the first two months at Sierra Leone, 22 Maroons died mainly from disease, and over 150 took ill.[9]

At Trelawny Town, and throughout their exile to first Nova Scotia and then Sierra Leone, Montague James continued to command the Trelawny Maroons. In 1809, Sierra Leone Governor Thomas Perronet Thompson officially nominated Montague James as the head of the Maroons in Sierra Leone.[10] Montague James died three years later.[11]

In 1841, some of the Maroons returned to Jamaica to work for Jamaican sugar planters, who desperately needed workers following the abolition of slavery. Many freedmen wanted to cultivate their own plots rather than work on plantations.[12]

The Jamaican Maroons who remained in Sierra Leone gradually merged with the developing Creole community. This was made up of immigrants and the descendants of various groups of freed slaves who arrived in Freetown between 1792 and about 1855. After abolishing the Atlantic slave trade, the British navy posted ships off Africa to intercept slavers, and would deposit liberated slaves at Freetown. Some modern Creoles (or "Krio") still proudly claim descent from the Maroons.

The Creole congregation of Freetown's St. John's Maroon Church, which was built by the Maroons in 1822[13] on what is now the city's main street, have especially emphasized their descent from the Jamaican exiles. The Maroons brought their ceremonial music and dances to Sierra Leone. The ceremonial music gradually became a popular Creole music genre and became known as Gumbe music and dance (named after the drum). It has survived to the 21st century and influences popular music. It has become identified with the broader Creole population.[14]

Notable descendants of the Jamaican Maroons in Sierra Leone

See also


  1. ^ Grant, John. Black Nova Scotians. Nova Scotia: The Nova Scotia Museum, 1980.
  2. ^ []
  3. ^ Robin Winks, The Blacks in Canada (Montreal: McGill University, 1997), pp. 82-3.
  4. ^ Grant, John N. (2002). The Maroons in Nova Scotia. Halifax: Formac. pp. 20–33.
  5. ^ Michael Siva, After the Treaties: A Social, Economic and Demographic History of Maroon Society in Jamaica, 1739-1842, PhD Dissertation (Southampton: Southampton University, 2018), p. 145.
  6. ^ R.C. Dallas, "The History of the Maroons" (1803), Vol. 2, p. 256.
  7. ^ Grant, John N (2002). The Maroons in Nova Scotia (Softcover). Formac. p. 203. ISBN 978-0887805691.
  8. ^ Simon Schama, Rough Crossings (London: BBC Books, 2002), p. 382.
  9. ^ Mavis Campbell, Back to Africa: George Ross and the Maroons (Trenton: Africa World Press, 1993), p. 48.
  10. ^ James Walker, The Black Loyalists: The Search for a Promised Land in Nova Scotia and Sierra Leone 1783-1870 (London: Longman, 1976), pp. 272, 277-280.
  11. ^ John Grant, The Maroons in Nova Scotia (Halifax: Formac, 2002), p. 150.
  12. ^ Fortin (2006), p. 23.
  13. ^ "St. John's Maron (sic) Church". Monuments and Relics Commission.
  14. ^ Robert Baron and Ana C. Cara, Creolization as Cultural Creativity, University Press of Mississippi, 2011; accessed 12 July 2016, available online through Project MUSE