By: Demetrius Brasher #234214
HAMJAMBO WATU WAZURI! (Swahili for hello beautiful people)
When we think about freedom fighters, we tend to always consider the Malcolm’s, Martin’s and Rosa Park’s of our time, and rightfully so. But, today I would like to introduce our readers to a group of freedom fighters who’ve inspired me. I know, I know! I’m only supposed to talk about one, but I couldn’t talk about one without talking about the others.
During the 1600’s on many Caribbean islands, the African population outnumbered the white population. On almost every island there are records of serious slave revolts, and repeat runaways. When these slaves fled in large numbers and formed jungle communities, they were called Maroons (from the Portuguese “Cimarron” meaning “wild, untamed”). Maroon communities fought whites off for years, and played an important role in the histories of Brazil, Suriname, Puerto Rico, Haiti, Cuba and Jamaica.
In 1655, the British took over Jamaica and most of the slaves fled to the mountains forming Maroon communities. They harassed slaveholders by stealing, trading with slaves and encouraging them to escape. In 1690, a large group of slaves, mainly Coromantee, a brave warrior class from Africa’s Gold Coast, rebelled and joined forces with other Maroons led by a powerful, short and bear-like fearless leader named, “CUDJOE”. With the help of his two brothers and two sub-chiefs, he started the first Maroon war.
They were legendary skilled marksmen who used the woods to their advantage so they could ambush their enemies. The British forces suffered huge losses from sharp shooting, as well as tropical diseases. In 1738, the King of England commissioned a Colonel to find Cudjoe and offer him a peace treaty. The Maroons were granted their freedom, and given 1,500 acres of land and the right to produce their own food and govern themselves. GANGSTER!
By the 1700’s, Haiti’s population was divided into three main groups; (1) the ruling whites, (2) the “Affranchis”, a larger class of free Black and mulattos, and (3) the much larger masses of Black slaves. Haiti also had a large Maroon community, powerful enough to have led three major Haitian uprisings in 1679, 1691 and 1704.
In 1758, the Maroons had a fearless leader named “Macandal”, a native born African who declared himself to be “the Black Messiah” sent to drive the whites off the island. As a highly knowledgeable herbalist, he planned to poison their food and water supply, but unfortunately, someone exposed his plan which ultimately led to his execution. But, before he was murdered, he warned his enemies that it wasn’t over because he would return one day more terrible than before.
Then on August 22, 1791, a great slave uprising plunged Haiti into civil war. Thousands rose up to fight for their freedom. Many were led by a number of Black commanders, but the greatest of them all was “Toussaint L ‘Overture”. As a child he was so frail that he wasn’t expected to live long. He never learned that he was the grandson of an African king, but he knew he was going to be a great man. He exercised relentlessly to build his body up, but his love for books was the key to finding his greatness.
After reading about the prophecy of a Black chief who would free all the slaves, he found his purpose. Once he joined the rebellion, the Haitians thought he was the second coming of Macandal. Under his leadership, they took control of the whole country, restored law and order, because they were able to defeat every army they faced. In 1801, Toussaint issued a constitution for Haiti which procured its independence and decreed that he would be governor for life. Now that’s Gangster!
So, the next time the subject of freedom fighters is brought up, you have three more to add to your list of discussion.
Sincerely submitted by:
Demetrius Brasher #234214
A.K.A. Muhammad The God!
Mpaka Halafu! (Swahili for until next time)