The Maroons and Plantations in Jamaica
Old Jamaia in the 1600s was a place renowned for it's plantations and export of cotton and other 'cash' crops. It helped earn the Empire of Great Britain wealth and lucrative trade routes on the world stage. So boldly that England had seized the Island of Jamaica from the Spanish in the 1650s had taken it from strength to strength as the years went by. As time went by island was close to cornering the sugar export market with over 22% from Jamaica alone by the 1700s.
But the success story came at a moral price; And that was the slave trade that drove the plantations from strength to strength. Emancipation was a long way away in the 1700s and the slaves in Jamaica were ready to try a gambit for being free men and women.
The Maroons in Jamaica
The Maroon people, former escaped slaves living in the islands interior, lived arguably a harder lifestyle than the plantation slaves. For the Maroons usually had to forage and trade for survival in often mountainous areas. They were free though and did not have to endure slavery. For the slaves in Jamaica the lure to escape to the Maroons will of been a goal to a fair few in the plantations.
Originally when the Spanish and Portuguese arrived slavery soon followed, those slaves that escaped to the interior became known as the Maroons. During the English invasion in the 1650s the Spanish armed the slaves in a last-ditch attempt to fend off the invaders. It helped the Spanish defense little such was the surprise attack and fury of the English, but it did mean that another wave of Maroons (well armed ones at that) escaped to the interior to join those already there.
Despite this set-back the Maroons played a small hand in aiding escaped slaves from the plantations, as they would give sanctuary and shelter where possible. The Maroons had to tread warily after the 1739 treaty though. For Cudjo, the wise Maroon war chief, on behalf of the Maroon's, had reluctantly agreed with the British to seek out and return escaped slaves to their masters in exchange for 2 dollars (per slave).
The Baptist War
In 1832 a self-educated pastor and Baptist, Samuel Sharpe rose up issuing a rallying cry, he was not blindly striking out in vengeance or violence against his masters though.
The slave uprising, despite being in the tens of thousands was crushed by the well-led armies and militia of the plantocracy. Pastor Sharpe and over three hundred of his followers were executed. Many considered the victory of the plantation owners a hollow one though, as the effects of it produced a groundswell of movement to speed up and set free the emancipation movement within a year or so.
Eve of Emancipation
In 1833 The Abolition Act was passed in Parliament, which took effect in 1834. This set free those slaves over 25 years old and for those younger than this requiring apprenticeships first to be served prior to being set free. This apprenticeship varied (from 6 years to outright for small children) and was opposed. In 1838 full emancipation was finally granted.
The Morants Bay Rebellion.
Further unrest continued after a two year drought and grinding poverty, in 1865 storm clouds gathered following a disputed trespass of an abandoned plantation....
This was a tragedy in some ways as it unfolded as some of white planters were killed in the chaos. The rebellion failed as regular troops were landed and for the rebels the backlash against them was a harsh one. Nearly a thousand Jamaican rebels were killed or executed in the aftermath, including their leader Paul Bogle. Even the charismatic and popular politician George Gordon was unfairly seized and executed, despite having no part in the rebellion itself.
Following a progressive move towards full independence from Britain over the years Jamaica was finally rewarded with full independence in 1962. The events and struggles that took place take a pride of place for many Jamaicans with many of the mentioned historical folk hailed as hero's.
As a new age dawned in Jamaica so did a new focus for Jamaicans, music!