Log In Start studying!

Select your language

Suggested languages for you:
StudySmarter - The all-in-one study app.
4.8 • +11k Ratings
More than 3 Million Downloads
Free
|
|

Maroon Societies

Maroon Societies

Before slavery became illegal in certain nations and territories, there was nowhere for Africans who escaped slavery to go. Left with no options, they went deep into unknown territory in an attempt to escape and remain hidden from slaveholders.

Maroon Societies Definition

Maroon societies were societies created by escaped slaves in remote and treacherous areas to avoid capture and re-enslavement.

Maroon Societies Blue Mountains in Jamaica StudySmarterFig. 1 - The Blue Mountains in Jamaica

These societies existed across the Americas wherever slavery existed, from the swamps of Florida and the Carolinas to the remote mountains of Jamaica to the tropical terrain of Brazil.

maroon

the term used for an escaped slave

Maroon Societies Time Period

By the early 16th century, there was a steady stream of Africans escaping slavery and hiding in remote areas. With time, there were enough runaways to begin forming small societies. Life was not easy as they faced treacherous terrain and had to forage for food. Recapture could mean torturous punishments or even death.

Maroon societies often worked with indigenous groups for mutual protection against European slaveholders

By the 18th century, plantations began expanding and European slaveholders on smaller islands overtook the maroon societies that existed. However, on larger islands or areas with more territory, maroon societies only became more established. These societies could grow to large numbers and include multiple generations. In Brazil, for example, the settlement of Palmares had 10,000-20,000 residents at its high peak.

When slavery came to an end in the 19th century, many maroon societies integrated themselves into the greater society. However, some maroon societies avoided assimilation and still exist today with independent and unique cultures. For example, the Saramacca (who formed their society in 1690) have a sort of nation of their own within the country of Suriname.

Maroon Societies in the Caribbean

The Caribbean and Brazil had a distinctly large number of maroon societies (in line with the larger number of slaves in these two places). We are going to focus on the Caribbean and take a look at two examples of maroon societies fighting against Europeans.

Guerilla Warfare

Maroon societies were notorious for their use of guerilla warfare against European slaveholders. Taking advantage of the environment, they staged ambushes where they raided plantations for firearms and tools and helped others to escape. In some cases, they also burned down plantations and poisoned slaveholders. Despite European governments passing acts and sending funding, maroon societies continued to attack and find success.

Maroon Societies in the Caribbean: Jamaica

In Jamaica, the case of the Windward Maroons and the Leeward Maroons gives us some important insight. The Windward Maroons lived in the East under the rule of Queen Nanni and the Leeward Maroons lived in the West under Kojo. These two societies were at war for a prolonged period before uniting against the British in the mid-18th century.

Queen Nanni is the only woman to have been honored as one of Jamaica's National Heroes.

Maroon Societies Trelawney Town in the Caribbean StudySmarterFig. 2 - depiction of Trelawney Town

Let’s break this down because we can learn two important things from this example. First of all, it shows that maroon societies were independent of each other and not always on good terms. But it also shows the power maroon societies really had, especially when united. England was the global superpower at the time, and yet, the British were unable to quell maroon resistance and had to agree to a treaty.

Maroon Societies in the Caribbean: Haiti

In Haiti, we can see the power of maroon societies once again. In 1791, a group of maroons came together and decided to attack the slaveholders of what was then Saint-Domingue. Coming from the remote mountains of the North, the group descended upon the plantations. They burned plantations to the ground and killed any white settlers they came upon. This rebellion would turn into the Haitian Revolution.

Haitian Revolution

a slave rebellion that culminated in the end of French colonial rule, the creation of the free nation of Haiti, and the end of slavery

Maroon Societies Haitian Revolution Painting StudySmarterFig. 3 - painting of the Haitian Revolution

The Culture of Maroon Societies

As we noted earlier, maroon societies were independent of each other. In Africa, there were (and still are) many distinct societies with their own cultures, languages, and governing systems living side by side. This meant that Africans in maroon societies often didn’t have these key societal elements in common and had to create their own unique blend.

Despite the differences between maroon societies, there are similarities across the board that point toward a uniquely African heritage. For example, many maroon societies used a matrilineal system.

The Significance of Maroon Societies

Maroon societies are significant as they were a large and important form of resistance for enslaved people. Whether it was the individual escaping to join a maroon society or the maroon society as a collective staging an ambush, Africans rejected slavery and fought for their freedom at every chance.

Additionally, the impact of these maroon societies continues far beyond slavery. Some maroon societies became large, self-sustaining societies with their own government, trade systems, military defense, and culture. Whether these societies still exist today, their culture and influence are still present among later generations.

Maroon Societies - Key Takeaways

  • Maroon societies began to form across the Americas in the early 16th century as Africans escaped to remote and treacherous areas away from slaveholders.
  • Larger maroon societies developed their own forms of government, trade systems, and military defense. They often teamed up with indigenous peoples for mutual protection.
  • Maroon societies played an important part in rebelling against European colonialism and slavery.
  • Just as in Africa, maroon societies were not uniform in their cultures and societal structures.
  • Some maroon societies exist to this day but most assimilated to the greater society when slavery came to an end.

Frequently Asked Questions about Maroon Societies

Maroon societies originated as African slaves began escaping slaveholders by hiding in remote and treacherous territory.

Maroon societies are significant because they were a major form of slave resistance and they developed unique, rich cultures that still exist (at least to some degree) today. 

Most maroon societies ended with the end of slavery.

Maroon societies either assimilated into the greater culture or formed unique nations within their country. 

Final Maroon Societies Quiz

Question

When did maroon societies first begin to develop?

Show answer

Answer

the 15th century

Show question

Question

Where were the largest numbers of maroon societies?

Show answer

Answer

Brazil

Show question

Question

What type of warfare did maroon societies use against slaveholders?

Show answer

Answer

guerilla warfare

Show question

Question

What revolution began with a slave rebellion?

Show answer

Answer

the Haitian Revolution

Show question

Question

Europeans were successful in fighting against maroon societies.

Show answer

Answer

False

Show question

Question

Which is not true of maroon societies?

Show answer

Answer

often in remote and treacherous areas

Show question

Question

What two rival maroon societies were present in Jamaica?

Show answer

Answer

Windward Maroons

Show question

Question

When did most maroon societies dissolve?

Show answer

Answer

the 18th century

Show question

Question

Why did maroon societies have different cultures and societal structures?

Show answer

Answer

Africa is made up of unique societies living side by side and maroon societies are a blend of their cultures and societal structures. 

Show question

Question

Where did maroon societies have the most longevity?

Show answer

Answer

larger islands

Show question

60%

of the users don't pass the Maroon Societies quiz! Will you pass the quiz?

Start Quiz

Discover the right content for your subjects

No need to cheat if you have everything you need to succeed! Packed into one app!

Study Plan

Be perfectly prepared on time with an individual plan.

Quizzes

Test your knowledge with gamified quizzes.

Flashcards

Create and find flashcards in record time.

Notes

Create beautiful notes faster than ever before.

Study Sets

Have all your study materials in one place.

Documents

Upload unlimited documents and save them online.

Study Analytics

Identify your study strength and weaknesses.

Weekly Goals

Set individual study goals and earn points reaching them.

Smart Reminders

Stop procrastinating with our study reminders.

Rewards

Earn points, unlock badges and level up while studying.

Magic Marker

Create flashcards in notes completely automatically.

Smart Formatting

Create the most beautiful study materials using our templates.

Sign up to highlight and take notes. It’s 100% free.

Get FREE ACCESS to all of our study material, tailor-made!

Over 10 million students from across the world are already learning smarter.

Get Started for Free
Illustration