Jamaica Lore

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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.
The Maroons were fortunate that their numbers included the ancestors of the first-generation African slaves who had escaped. These will of included many wisemen, elders and healers. With their lore of herbs, plants they would of have a definate edge. Indeed the near-equatorial climate, while not dis-similar to Africa would of been easy to adjust to compared to the mostly caucasian colonists and settlers nearby. Additionally they may have also had Tainos allies (native indians to in and around Hispaniola) living among them.
Several towns and communities were formed soon after and they enjoyed relatively free autonomy until after the first Maroon War in 1730s. Although both sides claimed to a victory (of sorts), the outright result as a draw.
The Maroons kept their freedom and ways, but were encouraged to settle more in the townships (away from the mountain areas) and be overseen by a crown supervisor for each town settlement.

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).
For those days it was a fair sum of money and would of been a tempting offer, regardless of what it meant for the runaways. Naturally this agreement caused division and anger within the Maroon ranks, as it meant that despite themselves being granted independence the price was to technically betray their own people.
Another war followed in the 1790s and despite a skillful and daring defence all the Maroon townships were burnt to the ground, save only Accompong which remained neutral. Many of the surviving Maroon people likely dispersed back to the mountainous interior once more...

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.
Their leader demanded they be given their freedom, they'd continue to work at the plantations (safe-guarding the owners livelihoods), be granted the half-pay of a free-born plantation worker.

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.
An important date for Jamaican people.

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!
With the 1960s came Bob Marley and a new groove of tunes that have put Jamaica on the map in terms of music culture.

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