Nannny, born 1686 in Ghana, Western Africa, into the Ashanti tribe, and was brought to Jamaica as a slave a strong black woman and the leader of the Jamaican maroons in the 18th century, the Maroons are said to be descendants of imported West Africans who fled the oppressive experience of slavery on plantations and formed their own communities in the rugged, hilly interior of the island.
She was known by both the Maroons and the British settlers as an outstanding military leader who became, in her lifetime. Her influence over the Maroons was so strong, that it seemed to be supernatural and was said to be connected to her powers of obeah. She was the sister of Cuffy, Accompong, Johnny, Quao and Cudjoe, all renowned Maroon leaders.
Cudjoe went to St. James and organized a village which was later named Cudjoe Town; Accompong went to St. Elizabeth, while Nanny and Quao went to Portland and established a Maroon community, ‘Nanny Town’ which was an organized community of freed Africans.
There are many legends about Nanny among the Maroons. Some even claim that there were several women who were leaders of the Maroons during this period of history. Among Maroon culture, their ancestors are revered and their importance to everyday life is recognized. The past is a source of pride which is both taught and shared.
The other story is that Nanny was able to catch bullets with her buttocks and fart them out again. Renowned historian Edward Braithwaite suggests that the original story took a vulgar twist on account of British colonialists who were known to detest Nanny and were being deliberately offensive about her when they relayed this tale.
Amongst modern day Maroons, the history of their resistance against slavery is an extreme form of pride that forms a large part of Maroon identity. The story of the Maroons endurance and ability to hold off the British troops for almost eighty years is one that has never been repeated in history.
What saw the Maroons through to freedom were their unfailing courage and determination? Their resistance to slavery drew on the strength of their memory of Africa and its culture. Their African culture and identity instilled in them great confidence and self esteem. So much so, that this diluted the stigma of inferiority imposed by the plantocracy.
The Maroon women raised crops and were responsible for most of the agricultural output within their communities. The men hunted wild hogs and raided the plantations for food and supplies and to free slaves. Often, the plantations were ‘raided’ to bring back women into the Maroon communities, without which they would be unable to increase their numbers and ensure the survival of the Maroons as a race.
There are legends of great women Maroon warriors who raided the plantations and freed slaves, wielding huge knives that they used to cut off the heads of the British. Nanny died in the 1750’s and was buried in Moore Town Portland under a great mound marked by river stones. She was said to be married to a man named Adou, but had no children.