Nanny (c.1686 - 1733) MP

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Birthdate:
Birthplace: Ghana
Death: Died in Jamaica
Occupation: Leader
Managed by: Kenneth Kwame Welsh
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About Nanny

Queen Nanny or Grandy Nanny, Jamaican National Hero, was a well-known leader of the Jamaican Maroons in the eighteenth century. Historical documents refer to her as the "rebels (sic) old obeah woman," and they legally grant "Nanny and the people now residing with her and their heirs . . . a certain parcel of Land containing five hundred acres in the parish of Portland . . ." (quoted in Campbell 177, 175). Nanny Town was founded on this land. Much of what is known about Nanny comes from oral history as little textual evidence exists.

Nanny was born c. 1686 in Ghana, Western Africa, into the Ashanti tribe, and was brought to Jamaica as a slave. It is believed that some of her family members were involved in intertribal conflict and her village was captured. Nanny and several relatives were sold as slaves and sent to Jamaica. Upon arrival in Jamaica, Nanny was likely sold to a plantation in Saint Thomas Parish, just outside of the Port Royal area. Such plantations grew sugarcane as the main crop, and the slaves toiled under extremely harsh conditions.

As a child, Nanny was influenced by other slave leaders and maroons. She and her brothers, Accompong, Cudjoe, Johnny and Quao ran away from their plantation and hid in the Blue Mountains area of northern Saint Thomas Parish. While in hiding, they split up to organize more Maroon communities across Jamaica: Cudjoe went to Saint James Parish and organized a village, which was later named Cudjoe Town; Accompong settled in Saint Elizabeth Parish, in a community known as Accompong Town; Nanny and Quao founded communities in Portland Parish. She was married to a Maroon named Adou, but had no children.

Nanny and her brothers became folk heroes. The most famous of her brothers, Cudjoe, went on to lead several slave rebellions in Jamaica with the aid of her other brothers.

By 1720, Nanny and Quao had settled and controlled an area in the Blue Mountains. It was given the name Nanny Town, and consisted of the 500 acres (2.4 km²) of land granted to the runaway slaves. Nanny Town had a strategic location as it overlooked Stony River via a 900 foot (270 m) ridge making a surprise attack by the British practically impossible. The Maroons at Nanny Town also organized look-outs for such an attack as well as designated warriors who could be summoned by the sound of a horn called an Abeng.

Maroons at Nanny Town and similar communities survived by sending traders to the nearby market towns to exchange food for weapons and cloth. The community raised animals, hunted, and grew crops, and was organized very much like a typical Ashanti tribe in Africa. The Maroons were also known for raiding plantations for weapons and food, burning the plantations, and leading slaves back to their communities.

Nanny was very adept at organizing plans to free slaves. For over 30 years, Nanny freed more than 800 slaves, and helped them to resettle in the Maroon community. (Nanny of the Maroons).

Around 1728, Queen Nanny emerged as the primary general, leader, and obeah woman of the Windward Maroons, her reign extending until around 1740, shortly after the Maroons signed a peace treaty with the British. This period, particularly from 1728-1734, was representative of the Maroons in their greatest glory. (Cary 1970, p. 20). In order to understand the context of Queen Nanny's emergence as a central figure in Jamaican history, it is important to have rudimentary knowledge of Maroon history in Jamaica and an understanding of the specific African ethnic groups that influenced the Maroon identity. (The Mother of Us All: A History of Queen Nanny, Chapter 1: Introduction, by Karla Gottlieb).

Queen Nanny of the Windward Maroons has largely been ignored by historians who have restricted their focus to male figures in Maroon history. However, amongst the Maroons themselves she is held in the highest esteem. Biographical information on Queen Nanny is somewhat vague, with her being mentioned only four times in written historical texts and usually in somewhat derogatory terms. However, she is held up as the most important figure in Maroon history. She was the spiritual, cultural and military leader of the Windward Maroons and her importance stems from the fact that she guided the Maroons through the most intense period of their resistance against the British, between 1725 and 1740.

Queen Nanny is presumed to have been born around the 1680’s in Africa’s Gold Coast (now known as Ghana). She was reported to belong to either the Ashanti or Akan tribe and came to Jamaica as a free woman. It is possible that Queen Nanny brought slaves of her own, reportedly being of royal African blood. It was not uncommon for African dignitaries to keep slaves. She was said to be married to a man named Adou, but had no children. She died in the 1730’s.

Moore Town is now the primary town of the Windward Maroons – it was founded in 1734 after the British destroyed the original Maroon town, which was known as ‘Nanny Town’. (Jamaica's True Queen: Nanny of the Maroons).

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Nanny of the Maroons (Jamaica)'s Timeline

1686
1686
Ghana
1733
1733
Age 47
Jamaica
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