Nanny of the Maroons: How Jamaica’s Harriet Tubman Freed More Than 800 Slaves

Nanny of the Maroons Jamaican Heroine
17 Jun 2015

Since 2006, June has been recognized as National Caribbean-American Heritage Month (CAHM)—a time to celebrate the numerous contributions of Caribbean nationals to the history and fabric of America, and the rest of the world. In honor of CAHM, we highlight one of the most legendary women of the Caribbean.

Nanny of the Maroons
The Maroon societies of Jamaica are the superheroes of Black history. Maroons are descendants of West Africans who escaped slavery on Jamaican plantations to build their own communities in the highlands. They were considered fierce fighters who acquired justice on their terms, were despised by the authorities, and had the respect and trust of their people. One of their leaders—a woman most affectionately know as Nanny—is considered a national superhero.

Why she’s Bold and Fearless
Nanny led a segment of the Eastern Maroons during the early 18th century. Most records document how her exceptional leadership and organizational qualities benefited Maroons during the First Maroon War in 1720. Over the course of 30 years, it is said that she freed more than 800 slaves.

Born of the Asante people of Ghana West Africa and brought to the West Indies as a slave, in addition to organizing and training her troops on guerilla warfare, Nanny made sure to pass along the customs and traditions of the mighty Asante. She understood the power of her people’s heritage and encouraged many as she shared the legends and songs brought over from Africa. Today Jamaica recognizes her with a monument in Portland and with her portrait on their $500 bank note which is often refereed to as a “Nanny.”

What other lesser-known women in history do you know of who have blazed trails for the today’s leaders?


Ebonee Davis

Ebonee Davis is the founder of The Sankofa Group, a public history firm that interprets the history of people of color across the Diaspora. As a public historian, Davis works within the realm of museums, historic parks, and archives, developing programs that share the histories of people of color. Davis has been a guest lecturer at Howard University and the Bethesda Navy Medical Center College. She’s developed programs and exhibitions for institutions such as the National Park Service, the Banneker Douglass Museum, and the FBCG Historical Preservation Commission. Davis is presently working with the WEB DuBois Center in Ghana, West Africa on the second phase of a long term collaborative project to restore the home and personal book collection of WEB DuBois.


  1. Thank you for this history lesson! I love learning about new Sheros of color!

    • Julian B. Kiganda Says: June 29, 2015 at 11:41 pm

      Yes, we have so many amazing women in history and we look forward to telling more of their stories.

  2. I love learning something new. This is an awesome story. I’ll have to read up on her a bit more. You’ve definitely got me interested. Thanks for sharing.

  3. The Maroons in Jamaica really proved the power that we can have when we stick together and believe in ourselves. I remember reading about them while in high school in the Caribbean and feeling really proud of how grey resisted slavery. I wasn’t aware of Nanny’s story though.

  4. Great post and very informative. I’ve never heard of Maroons prior toy your post. Nanny was a fierce leader and I’m glad to see that she was recognized with a monument and added to the $500 bank note.

  5. Wow, never heard her story! Thanks so much for continuing to share these important and inspiring stories of women of Africa and the Diaspora.

  6. Great and interesting article! Thanks for sharing, I enjoyed learning about Nanny, definitely a bold and fearless woman!

  7. I totally learned something new today. I’m all for women in power and blazing a path for many to follow. I would like to see a woman on our US currency. It is supposed to happen in 2020, jury is still out on that one. Thanks for sharing your culture with me.

  8. Thanks for sharing this! I didn’t know about Nanny and I have a degree in African & Black Diaspora studies!

  9. Thank you for sharing this! I am a proud Jamaican! I learned about the maroons from an early age! I was just in Jamaica last week and admired the beautiful Nanny on the $500 bill!

  10. It’s something, I never think of slavery outside of the US, but I know it existed. Thanks for telling her story!

  11. Great post. I can think of so many women. I still feel like Harriet Tubman didn’t get what she deserved. I also think of women like Assata and Angela Davis. The women of MOVE etc..

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