Accompong is a historical maroon village, located in the hills of St. Elizabeth Parish in Jamaica, consolidated by a treaty in 1739. It is located in one of the two areas where runaway slaves settled, originally with the Taínos, isolated enough to be safe first from the Spanish and then later from the British. The town of Accompong was named after the Maroon leader Accompong, who was the brother of a number of other Maroon leaders: Quao, Cuffy, Cudjoe, and Nanny, from an Ashanti family.
The roads where narrow and bumpy. As you can see from the photos, I was able to see the real Jamaica that people do not normally see when visiting the island.
I arrived at the Accompong on a quiet morning. For a small fee I was taken on a guided tour around the community, and the significance of the place grew on me as I toured around the community. Oral White made a knowledgeable guide. This is when I realized the difference between reading history, and feeling history come alive.
Within the town, individual plots of land are passed down from generation to generation, with no official titles changing hands. Neither the land nor income generating activities within its boundaries are subject to government tax.
When you enter the community you see the abeng. The abeng is the most recognized symbol of the Maroons. It is a cow’s horn with the tip cut off. The Maroons sent secret war time messages by the drum and the abeng. Blowing through a square cut into the concave side of the abeng produced a sound heard for miles, which could be decoded by those who knew how. Today it is used mainly for ceremonial and festive purposes.
Accompong today is a farming community, with a few shops to serve the local population, and a small museum showcasing the history of the Maroons.
January 6, Accompong celebrates Kojo’s Day. Hundreds gather in Accompong, St. Elizabeth parish from across Jamaica and the world to commemorate Kojo’s birth and the signing of the Peace Treaty.. They celebrate the birthday of their great leader Kojo, and commemorate the 1738 signing of a Peace Treaty with the British.
Maroons from across Jamaica and the globe gather in Accompong on this day. The ceremony also attracts Jamaicans from all walks of life, and visitors from many countries.
This was the best part of my Jamaican trip.
View Accompong Town in a larger map
Maroons (from the word Spanish word “Cimarron”: “fugitive, runaway”, lit. “living on mountaintops”; from Spanish cima: “top, summit”) were runaway slaves in the West Indies, Central America, South America, and North America, who formed independent settlements together. The same designation has also become a derivation for the verb to maroon.
Cudjoe, also known as Captain Cudjoe, was a Maroon leader in Jamaica, and the brother of Nanny of the Maroons. He has been described as “the greatest of the Maroon leaders.” In the discussion of important and outstanding leaders in history, one must include Captain Cudjoe. He refused enslavement and freed thousands of captives.
The Jamaican Maroons are descended from runaway slaves who established free communities in the mountainous interior of Jamaica during the long era of slavery in the island. African slaves imported during the Spanish period may have provided the first runaways, apparently mixing with the Native American Taino or Arawak people that remained in the country. Some may have gained liberty when the English attacked Jamaica and took it in 1655, and subsequently. For about 52 years, until the 1737 peace treaty with the British rulers of the island – which is still in force – the Maroons stubbornly resisted conquest.
The two main Maroon groups in the 18th century were the Leeward and the Windward tribes, the former led by Cudjoe in Trelawny Town and the latter led by his sister Queen Nanny (and later by Quao). Captain Cudjoe had endless energy and was greatly motivated to stay a free man. He was strong, courageous and relentless. Cudjoe was also a very skillful, tactical field commander and a remarkable leader.
When the British attempted to recapture the runaways, Cudjoe defeated them on every occasion. Not only did Cudjoe successfully defend his communities, but also, similar to what Harriet Tubman would do in the nineteenth century, he freed many captives by raiding Britain’s plantations. Sometimes his raids were non-confrontational, but most times they were vicious, bloody encounters.
Before he attacked a plantation, Cudjoe would send spies among the captives to gather information from them at the markets and on the plantations. Once his spies collected sufficient evidence of the slave-owners’ plans, they sent them to Cudjoe. Then he determined the time and place of his attacks. During his strikes, Cudjoe and his men burned down mansions, destroyed cane fields and killed many whites along with faithful slaves who refused to help him.
Cudjoe’s attacks were so devastating that many of the early English settlers abandoned their plantations and returned to England. He often killed faithful slaves during these attacks because he despised them. According to one of England’s commanders on the island, General Williamson, it was commonly said, “the British rules Jamaica by day and Captain Cudjoe by night.”
In an attempt to capture Cudjoe and the Maroons, British leaders built forts near Maroon communities. They imported Native American tracking specialists from Central America to hunt down the Maroons. In addition, they formed an army of more than 1,000 soldiers to fight Cudjoe’s weapon-deficient military.
However, even with the tracking specialists and formidable army, Cudjoe out-maneuvered the British commander when one of Cudjoe’s spies told the commander that Cudjoe established settlements in a particular valley. As the British soldiers marched into the valley, Cudjoe’s four-sectioned forces watched them from behind the natural boundaries. When Cudjoe’s men attacked the soldiers from all sides, the crossfire surprised and debilitated them. The British soldiers fled the area and left behind guns and supplies.
For the next decade, Cudjoe caused considerable damage to the slave structure of Jamaica. When he raided, he often burned sugar cane fields, houses and barns, and he continued to kill slaves who were loyal to their masters. This latter measure put a great deal of pressure on every African captive to abide by Cudjoe’s advances. Therefore, Cudjoe’s peer-pressure tactic led the British to distrust just about every captive on the island.
To finally stop Cudjoe, the British government planned an elaborate expedition against the Maroons. The British recruited every fighting-eligible man on the island to move against Cudjoe. However, after considering the fact that if all the men went to fight against the Maroons, there would be no one left to protect the women and children. The British had a serious dilemma and they did not know what to do.
Faced with a very disturbing problem, Governor Sir Edward Trelawney weighed the possibilities. Eventually, he decided not to attack Cudjoe. He, instead, opted to make a treaty of peace with the Maroons. To carry out Governor Trelawney’s orders, a rather large army escorted Colonel Guthrie to meet with Cudjoe in Maroon territory. Once he convinced Cudjoe and his men that he would neither attack nor trick them, Cudjoe met with the colonel.
After talking for an hour or so, both men worked out a satisfactory treaty. They agreed that the British must recognize the Maroons as an independent nation; that the Maroons receive a very large tract of land and would not have to pay any taxes on it. Maroon societies still exist in Jamaica today.
Queen Nanny or Nanny (c. 1686 – 1733), 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.
This was the most exciting part of my trip to Jamaica. Thanks to Glamour Destination Management who arranged the outing, and my guide Bill.
The abeng is the most recognised symbol of the Maroons. It is a cow’s horn with the tip cut off. The Maroons sent secret war time messages by the drum and the abeng. Blowing through a square cut into the concave side of the abeng produced a sound heard for miles, which could be decoded by those who knew how. Today it is used mainly for ceremonial and festive purposes.
The Kindah tree where Kojo made his war plans.