Famously Known as Nanny of The Maroons, Queen Nanny was the leader of the Maroons, a community which had escaped slavery in Jamaica, during the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. She led the maroons to victory against the British colonizers.
Born in Ghana in 1686, Nanny and her four brothers (all of whom became Maroon leaders) were sold into slavery and later escaped from their plantations into the mountains and jungles of Jamaica. Nanny and one of her brothers, Quao, founded a village in the Blue Mountains that became known as Nanny Town. Nanny has been described as a practitioner of Obeah, a term used in the Caribbean to describe folk magic and religion based on West African influences.
Maroons were enslaved people in the Americas who escaped and formed independent settlements.
Nanny Town, placed as it was in the mountains away from European settlements and difficult to assault, thrived. Nanny limited her attacks on plantations and European settlements and preferred instead to farm and trade peacefully with her neighbours. She did however make numerous successful raids to free enslaved people held on plantations and it has been widely accepted that her efforts contributed to the escape and freedom of almost a thousand maroons.
While Nanny lived, Nanny Town and the Windward Maroons thrived and multiplied. The British colonial administration became embarrassed and threatened by the successes of the Maroons. Plantation owners who were losing slaves and having equipment and crops burned by Maroon raiders demanded that colonial authorities act. Hunting parties, made up of British regular army soldiers, militiamen, and mercenaries (many from the free black community), scoured the Jamaican jungles.
After Queen Nanny’s death in 1733, many of the Windward Maroons moved across the island to the more sparsely inhabited Western (or Leeward) side of Jamaica. Nanny Town was eventually captured by the British and destroyed in 1734.
Queen Nanny’s life and accomplishments have been recognised by the Jamaican government and she has been the only woman honoured as a National Hero. A modern portrait of Nanny, based on her description, appears on the Jamaican $500 note, the largest banknote in circulation in Jamaica.
Nanny is known as one of the earliest leaders of resistance against slavery in the Americas.