Publication and Presentation by Amy Johnson explores bondage among the Maroons of Jamaica
Professor Amy Johnson, Assistant Professor of History, has been exploring the concept of "unfreedom" through an examination of the Jamaican Maroon practice of holding people in bondage during the 17th through the 19th centuries.
The Maroons of Jamaica often stand as the epitome of freedom fighters in the Atlantic World. These enslaved men and women escaped from brutal sugar planations to esablish semi-autonomous villages in the harsh interior of the island. They then thwarted every attempt by the colonial slave society to re-enslave them and eventually forced the British army, arguably the most advanced military in the world at the time, to sue for peace. The Maroons of Jamaica had long served as a symbol of hope to the thousands of men and women enslaved on the island of Jamaica, and the signing of the Maroon Treaty in 1739 further elevated their status as indomintable rebels. There is much to celebrate about the Maroons, but scholars have often done so at the expense of critically examining some of the more challenging aspects of Maroon history. Namely, the Maroons held others in bondage. Johnson seeks to address this void in by placing Maroon slaveholding within the larger context of slavery in indiginous societies. In these societies with slaves, bondage took many forms and the experiences of bondmen and women is best understood through an analysis of their privileges and disabilities. Johnson makes two important contributions to this field of study. First, Johnson argues that the Maroons of Jamaica can be at once great freedom fighters and slaveholders if they are studied in their appropriate historical context. Second, she provides a comparative framework for understanding slavery in Maroon communities and draws some conclusions about the various "unfreedoms" these enslved peoples faced. Johnson most recently published "Captivity among the Maroons of Jamaica in the Seventeenth and Early Eighteenth centuries: A Comparative Analysis" in the International Journal of Humanities and Cultural Studies. In May, she will present her work at The Many Faces of Slavery: non-traditional slavery in the Atlantic World Conference in Montpellier, France.