As the original people of Jamaica were totally extinct within a few years of Spanish occupation, they were forced to bring in slaves from Africa.  The first Africans that were brought came in 1513 from the Iberian Peninsula. They were servants, cowboys, herders of cattle, pigs and horses, as well as hunters.

Images of African Slavery and the Slave Trade.
Source: "Journey of the Discovery of the Source of the Nile" by John Hanning Speke, New York 1869

Africans were captured in wars, as retribution for crimes committed or by abduction and marched to the coast in "coffles" with their necks yoked to each other. And these war prisoners were normally sold as slaves in local markets.  This was indeed a common practice in all countries from time immemorial.  This is reflected in the Bible where a person may sell even himself to pay off a debt or a child. But more often they sold their enemies who were caught as war prisoners. They were paraded through the streets in chain as a declaration of victory before they were sold as slaves.  But in Africa this took another turn when foreigners entered the scene to buy slaves.

Images of African Slavery and the Slave Trade.
Source: "Boy Travelers on the Congo" by Thomas W Knox, New York 1871
 Slavers were often transported considerable distances  to be sold to Europeans.


The Europeans brought in more serious powerful long distance war instruments like guns.  This gave the impetus for the black middlemen to actually go into war with these superior weapons just for the sake of taking war criminals so that they can be sold at high prices. Thus the slave trade took a serious turn . If you were caught you were put in chains and marched to a slave fort on the coast. Because you were on foot that could take months. About one in five – 3 million in all – died in these death marches.

It is strange that I went to Jamaica soon after serving Ghana National College at the time of Kwame Nkruma for three years.  I have personally seen the forts and the place from where these slaves were loaded into ships and taken away to Jamaica.  These slaves even included the Chiefs of tribess who were caught in war.

Castle of Cabo Corso (Capecoast Castle) Elmina Castle.

This also led to the buying foreigners to venture into capturing people from nearby villages often with the help of the chieftains of other clans who want to make quick buck. Once at the fort you were put behind bars and there you waited for a slave ship and a good wind. That might take yet more months. And if the ship was not full it would spend weeks or months visiting yet other slave forts along the coast to fill up.

The Middle Passage:

It took as little as a month to get to Brazil, two months or more to get to North America.

Ships were packed so full that you had just enough room to lay down. Sometimes you did not even have enough room to roll over and lay on your side. It was dark and hot and airless and you lived in shit, piss, vomit and menstrual blood. The ship’s crew raped the women and girls. You had little to eat but even worse you had little to drink: fresh water was extremely limited on the high seas.

Disease was common. In the 1500s as many as half died on board. In the 1800s that dropped to 5%. Some who lived went mad.

So many slaves came that it was not until the 1840s and the Irish Potato Famine that more whites than blacks crossed the Atlantic.

The most common means of enslaving an African was through abduction. They were placed in trading posts or forts to await the horrifying six- to twelve-week Middle Passage voyage between Africa and the Americas during which they were chained together, underfed, kept in the ship's hold in the thousands - packed more like sardines than humans. Those who survived were fattened up and oiled to look healthy prior to being auctioned in public squares to the highest bidders.


The Origin of Slaves from Africa
according Trans-Atlantic Slave Database

Here are the African points of origin for the 1,019,597 enslaved Africans arriving to Jamaica:

·         Gold Coast (modern Ghana): 301,576 disembarked in Jamaica

·         Bight of Biafra (modern Eastern Nigeria and Cameroon): 296,600

·         West Central Africa (modern Angola and DRC): 179,917

·         Bight of Benin (modern Togo, Benin, and Western Nigeria): 128,109

·         Windward Coast (modern Liberia and Cote d’ Ivoire): 41,055

·         Sierra Leone: 34,314

·         Senegambia (modern Senegal, Gambia, and Guinea Bissau): 29,711

·         Southeast Africa: 8,315


Slave Castles in Africa

Cape Coast Castle, Inner Courtyard, Ghana,

Slave trading forts or castles were built by the Europeans along the coast of Africa, and sometimes on islands off the coast. At Cape Coast Castle, under British control, the fort housed the governor-in-chief, the director-general, the factors, clerks, and mechanics, as well as the soldiers. There were magazines, warehouses, storehouses, granaries, guard rooms, and two large water tanks, or cisterns, built of English brick and local mortar. Slave holds were established to confine a thousand to fifteen hundred captives in the lower level. There were also vaults for rum, workshops for smiths, armorers, and carpenters. The fort was guarded by seventy-six cannon and there was, in the armory, a substantial quantity of small arms, soldiers' coats, blunderbusses, buccaneer guns, pistols, cartridge cases, swords and cutlasses. There were gardens capable of producing plantains, bananas, pineapples, potatoes, yams, maize, cauliflowers, and cabbages. Walks were planted with orange trees, limes and coconut palms. There was also a chapel



In 1637 the lodge was occupied by the Dutch. Then, in 1652, it was captured by the Swedes, who named it Fort Carolusburg. For a time, both the local people and various European powers fought for and gained possession of the fort. Finally, in 1664, after a four-day battle, the fort was captured by the British and re-named Cape Coast Castle. The Castle served as the seat of the British administration in the then Gold Coast (Ghana) until the administration was moved to Christianborg Castle in Accra on March 19, 1877.

Slaves were kept at Cape Coast Castle in dungeons while awaiting transport to the New World. Around 1000 male slaves and 500 female slaves occupied the castle at any one time in separate dungeons. Each slave would be locked up for 6 to 12 weeks, waiting for their turn to board one of the ships. The dungeons must have been unbearable with hundreds of slaves crammed in together and no toilet facilities. There were only a few windows to let in fresh air, and a channel down the middle to carry away urine and feces which completely covered the floor of the dungeons.

The nearby Elmina Castle, also a major European slave trade fort, was established 155 years earlier than Cape Coast Castle. The Portuguese built the castle of São Jorge da Mina in 1482, in a region rich in gold and ivory resources. Da Mina means 'of the mine' in Portuguese. The Castle is one of West Africa's oldest standing buildings; it was the first permanent structure south of the Sahara built by the Europeans.




Cape Coast Castle, Ghana, Door of No Return





There is a church between the two dungeon entrances. On the wall of the Church are these words from Psalms 132:14 ”Here shall I rest for evermore, here shall I make my home as I have wished”
Psalms 132:11, 13-14, 17-18

11 Yahweh has sworn to David, and will always remain true to his word, 'I promise that I will set a son of yours upon your throne. 13 For Yahweh has chosen Zion, he has desired it as a home. 14 'Here shall I rest for evermore, here shall I make my home as I have wished. 17 'There I shall raise up a line of descendants for David, light a lamp for my anointed; 18 I shall clothe his enemies with shame, while his own crown shall flourish.'

This of course was the prophesy for the remnants of David whom God had promised to sustain.  Was this a promise to the blacks? Were they the remnants God has prepared for the years to come?



















Africans thrown overboard from a slave ship, Brazil, ca. 1830s.
This woodcut was originally published in The Liberator, the American abolitionist newspaper, 7 Jan. 1832 (vol. 11, p. 2)
[Library of Congress photo, LC-USZ62-30833]




When the ships arrived at Cape Coast Castle, the slaves would be chained and taken through the 'door of no return' leading to the waterfront. The slaves had little idea what would happen to them; some believed that they were being transported to another land where they would be eaten by the white men. Many of them (10-15%, or more) would die of infections or illness during the sea voyage, which typically lasted five to eight weeks with good winds and calm seas, or sometimes up to three months with unfavorable weather. The men were packed into the ships' holds in very tight quarters with no toilet facilities, chained together, and infrequently would be allowed to come up to the top deck to get some air and exercise. The women were often allowed more freedom to move about the ship, where they were subjected to sexual abuse by the crew.


1880                             1891

They were mostly employed in the sugar plantations of Jamaica.





They were resettled in a land far away to start all over.



Based on the phoenix ship records, enslaved Africans mostly came from the Akan people  (Ashanti, Akyem, Fante and Bono) followed by Igbo, Yoruba, Kongo, Fon people and Ibibio people. Akan (then called Coromantee) culture was the dominant African culture in Jamaica.

The Portuguese arrived on the coast of Guinea in 1471as the first Europeans.They built their their fortress on the coast.  In 1482 they called it the “Elmina Castle”  meaning the castle for the mine befitting the name of the country as Gold Coast. This was soon followed by other Europeans in the hunt for gold either in the form of mineral or in the form of humans (slaves). Around 1650: The first Danish ship arrived The Danes were the last of the Europeans to Arrive.In1661, the Danish fort "Christiansborg" (sometimes known as Osu Castle) is built in Osu (modern-day Accra). It becomes the home of the Danish governor and later the centre of Danish slave trade. It later became the palace for the president of Ghana 

The sea captain John Hawkins pioneered English involvement in the Atlantic slave trade in the 16th century. Hawkins was the first Englishman to deport Africans from the west coast of Africa for sale in the West Indies. From the 17th century, Britain joined the Portuguese, Dutch and French in this large-scale, global commercial enterprise, becoming masters in the trade in human cargo..   


Within short time the main merchandise has become human life. Enslaved Africans for plantations in the Americas becomes even more valuable than gold. England, the Netherlands, Portugal, Germany, France, Sweden and Denmark all competed for the trade, 


By 1700's several Ghanain tribes got involved with the Europeans in selling slaves to them. These included Akwamu, Fante and Asante.  They sold slaves in exchange for modern weaponry of that time which in turn made them capable of success in war with other tribes and for more war prisoners who became commodity in slave trade with the European slave traders. 


In 1792: Britain passed a law to stop importing slaves from 1807.  It was not a decision to actually abolish slavery itself. It was only in 1833 only slavery was officially abolished in all British colonies. All British-owned slaves were freed.

Britain officially bought all the Danish establishments for 10,000 pound sterling and gradually became the power presence in Ghana. The freedom loving powerful chiefdom of Asante stood against Britain and eventualy resulted in British-Asante war.  Even though Asante were dominating eventually they surrendered and Gold Coast became a colony of Great Britain.


By 1863: Great Britain dominates the region completely. Only the Asante kingdom is still resisting British control. The British efforts to control the Gold Coast and especially the gold trade results in the third British-Asante war. Asante history records a victory, but they only managed to hold back the enemy for a few more years.

Gold Coast was proclaimed a British crown colony in 1874 

As in all other British Colonies Gold Coast became free under the leadership of Kwame Nkrumah in 1957

Dutch and British forts in Secondi.
Dutch sold all their belongings to Britain for 10,000 pounds including the Elmina Castle.








I was invited by the School that was started by Nkrumah to start the GCE A level courses in Physics and Mathematics and I served them for three years and did exactly that.  It is from there I went over to Jamaica.


1964: Nkrumah suspended the democracy by suspending the constitution. Ghana officially becomes a one-party state and Nkrumah became a dictator. Criticised by the West, Nkrumah now turns to the Soviet Union and other communist countries.



 As the Arawaks died out, Spanish immigrants were forced to import African slaves inorder to maintain their plantations. The Jamaican Maroons are descendants of Africans who escaped from slavery on the island of Jamaica and established free communities in the Blue mountain, in the eastern parishes.  In Jamaica this group was referred to as Coromantie or Koromantee. They were fierce and ferocious fighters who preferred death to slavery.  Between 1655 until the 1830’s they led most of the slave rebellions in Jamaica.The Maroons are mostly descendants of West Africans, mainly people from the Akan Asante people of Ghana. African slaves imported during the Spanish period likely were the first to develop such refugee communities. Since they knew the mountainous areas well, they were able to keep the Spanish landlords at bay.   


When in 1655 English forces forced the Spanish, they left everything and fled. Before leaving, however, Spanish settlers freed their slaves and let loose all their cattle.   It is these freed slaves that established some of the maroon communities and dominated the hill regions of Jamaica to became independent fighting community of the Black. These remained especially as a place where the slaves who dared to run away could find shelter and refuge. 


The word “Maroon” comes from the word “cimarrone” which means runaway slave or savage in Spanish.



As was the case elsewhere in the Caribbean, Jamaican planters began to cultivate sugar in the latter half of the seventeenth century. The plantation system of Jamaica relied entirely on enslaved labor and the island imported almost a million Africans as slaves. While the slave community increased, the disillusioned British community preferred to remain as absentee landlords. 

The maroon community remained as a constant threat to the planter communities since it provided a means of refuge to the the runaway slaves.  They also began to attack the plantations as a guerilla warfare and took slaves to freedom. The British Army “Red Coats” tried to fight them. The Maroons established an early-warning system - using an abeng (horn) to warn their villages of attack by the red-coats (British). 

Traditional Maroon house (sans the window and electrical box). Traditionally homes were only used for sleeping and storage - so there is no need for windows. Neighbors lived close to each other and shared responsibilities for child rearing, etc.

.Maroons: photograph from collection of Sir H.H. Johnston, a government administrator and anthropologist. Jamaica, 1899-1910.


The First Maroon War between the Maroons and the colonial British started around 1728 and continued until the British incapable of defeating the Maroons, were forced into peace treaties of 1739 and 1740. Though more and more British troops were sent into Jamaica they were no match for the guerrilla tactics of the maroons largely owing to the easily defendable, dense forest of Cockpit Country.





  Nanny, known as Granny Nanny, Grandy Nanny, and Queen Nanny was one of the Maroon leaders  in Jamaica.  Nanny  and her brothers themselves were escaped slaves who had been from the Ashanti tribe of Ghana.  Nanny and one brother, Quao, founded a village in the Blue Mountains, on the Eastern (or Windward) side of Jamaica, which became known as Nanny Town. Nanny has been described as a practitioner of Obeah, a form of folk magic and religion based on West African traditions.


She made numerous successful raids to free slaves held on plantations and it has been widely accepted that her efforts contributed to the escape of almost 1,000 slaves over her lifetime.





This Maroon settlement referred to as "the great negro town" in most official documents is situated on the southern slopes of the Blue Mountains in the Stony River Valley. A recent expedition discovered the long buried remains of this town. Its inhabitants were the Windward Maroons of Queen Nanny and Captain Quaco who as an excellent guerilla fighter. They successfully terrorized the plantocracy in that end of the island. The town was captured in 1734 by a successful expedition of white forces, prior to the signing of the June 1739 Peace Treaty.


Accompong is a historical Maroon village located in the hills of St Elizabeth in Jamaica. It was formed after the Maroons signed a peace treaty with the British in 1739.

It is listed as one of the two areas where runaway slaves settled. It was isolated enough to be safe first from the Spanish, and then later, from the British.
It is said that rebel slaves and their descendants wrested land from the colonial plantation and transformed a marginal mountainous reservation, imposed by a subsequent colonial legal treaty, into a sacred landscape rooted in common land.
The treaty granted the Maroons their long-sought-after autonomy.
However, when the Second Maroon War broke out in 1795, the Accompong Maroons remained neutral and the British left them alone.
At the end of the war, all the other Maroon settlements in Jamaica were destroyed; Accom-pong alone remained.
The town of Accompong was named after the Maroon leader Accompong, who was from an Ashanti family and was the brother of a number of other Maroon leaders - Quao, Cuffy, Cudjoe, and Nanny.
Cudjoe is credited for uniting the Maroons in their fight for autonomy. Descendants and friends of the Maroons come together in celebration of the treaty on January 6 each year, which is also Cudjoe's birthday.
The Accompong Maroons share practices and a culture similar to that of their African ancestors.
- Information from Accompong history documents.

Captain William Cuffee, known as Captain Sambo, is credited as having killed Nanny in 1733 during one of the attacks. Nanny Town was eventually captured by the British and destroyed in 1734.


Nanny’s life and accomplishments have been recognised by the Government of Jamaica and on March 31, 1982 the Right Excellent Nanny of the Maroons was conferred the Order of the National Hero as per Government Notice 23 Jamaica Gazette along with Sam Sharpe.


Slavery was abolished in the British Empire by the Slavery Abolition Act in 1834.





Celebrating the abolition of slavery medallion 1834





.Nat Turner’s Slave Uprising

By Justin Fornal

PUBLISHED October 5, 2016

Nat Turner was an African-American slave preacher in Virginia who led the bloodiest slave rebellion in American history.

The Beginnings and an Early Prophecy

Nat Turner was born into slavery on October 2, 1800, on the Benjamin Turner family plantation in Southampton County, Virginia. He was born with several marks on his chest that family members regarded as the marks of a prophet. Having learned to read at an early age, he was considered an intellectual at the time, as it was highly frowned upon to teach slaves to read.

Throughout his life, Turner would look to the Bible to better understand the reason behind the enslavement of his people. His wisdom and natural orating skills led him to become a respected preacher among the surrounding slave community. Early on, he interpreted that the Bible said that slaves should remain subservient to their earthly masters, but a series of prophetic visions changed his views.

 “I had a vision … I saw white and black spirits engaged in battle, and the sun was darkened … the thunder rolled in the heavens and flowed in the streams,” Gray quotes Turner as saying in "The Confessions of Nat Turner." “I discovered drops of blood on the corn as though it were dew from heaven.”

These visions convinced Turner that it was his destiny to unite black men and women, both enslaved and free, to overthrow their masters. For years he waited for a sign from God to begin the fight for freedom. On February 12, 1831, Turner saw a solar eclipse. Upon seeing this "sign," Turner discussed his plans with four other slaves, and they set the date for July 4. Turner fell sick, however, and that date passed. Around August 13, he witnessed a second atmospheric disturbance in which the sun appeared bluish green from volcanic dust in the air.

.The Plan

On August 21, Turner met with a group of fellow conspirators in the swampy woodlands around Cabin Pond. The group ate a meal and took a vow to kill all slave owners they encountered, including women and children. They decided the first victims would be Turner’s current master, Joseph Travis, and his family, and that Turner should deliver the first blow.

The group traveled from farm to farm, slaughtering whites and freeing blacks. Many of the enslaved chose not to join the revolt, and some even fought to protect their masters. At most stops the rebel force grew, at one point reaching around 40 recruits. Over the next two days they killed at least 55 whites. Turner's presumed goal was to reach Jerusalem, where he believed there was an armory that his forces could use to further their rebellion.

The group never made it to Jerusalem and within two days were scattered and captured by the local militia. Turner eluded capture for two months by hiding out in the woods. Records show that out of the 53 suspected to be involved, more than 50 were brought to trial, 18 were executed, 12 were transported and sold South, and 21 were discharged to return to their masters. Of the four free blacks brought to trial, one was executed and the other three found not guilty.

.Turner’s Capture

It is written that Turner was discovered hiding out on October 30 by farmer Benjamin Phipps. He surrendered to Phipps and was taken to be tried. On November 5, 1831, he was sentenced to death for "conspiring to rebel and make insurrection." On November 11 he was hanged.

it is estimated that around 53 blacks were arrested and tried, 20 were hanged, 21 acquitted, and 12 transported out of Virginia.

Nat Turner's Aug. 21, 1831 slave rebellion in rural Southampton took dozens of lives and sparked a brutal rampage of revenge.

Desperate to regain control in the wake of the rebellion, white militias unleashed a wave of violence and intimidation against both enslaved and free blacks throughout the region. Many innocent people who had nothing to do with the insurrection were killed as a result of this campaign. In one case a severed head was put on display at a Southampton County crossroad. To this day, the street located outside Courtland, Virginia, bears the name Blackhead Signpost Road. In Virginia, strict laws were passed to further limit the right of blacks to gather.

.A Changing Legacy and a Memorial

It is rumored that after Nat Turner was hanged, he was then decapitated, quartered, and skinned. Allegedly his skull and brain were sent off for study, his fat was rendered to wagon-wheel grease, and pieces of his tanned skin were given out as souvenirs. This would have been done in an attempt to crush Turner’s legacy and prevent him from being exalted as a martyr.

Here is the reaction of the Nat Turner’s Massacre. 
Was he right? Was his interpretation of the Bible correct?

We regretted to see that, in the Association of the Shiloh district of colored Baptists, held in Manchester few days since, the horrid massacre set on foot by Nat. Turner in Southampton in 1830 was alluded to with the appearance of much eclat and parade. The delegates from that county were referred to as coming from the county “where Nat. Turner struck the first blow for freedom,” and they were marched forward, and there was much shaking of hands and general felicitation upon the occasion. Now this was all very bad and very much out of place. Nat Turner's massacre was the most barbarous and brutal of all the human butcheries of this century. Studying the moon more than he did the Bible and the fantastical shapes in the clouds more than the principles and sentiments of justice and humanity, the poor monomaniac Turner set on foot the bloody and savage massacre, in which men, and women, and innocent girls, and even helpless ‘babes, were slaughtered by his insensate followers. It was a horror of horrors, a brutal and phrensied shedding of human blood, such as has never been exceeded in its unprovoked and brutal character.   


It was a bad-hearted set in the Moderator Williams (colored) to call up such a horrid reminiscence as worthy of special commendation. We suppose that few persons of the colored congregation present were aware of the true nature of the Southampton feast of blood. That very year the people of Virginia. were strongly inclined to the abolition of slavery.


Mr- JEFFERSON had exerted a. powerful influence. once on the public mind by his views against the practical benefits of slavery, end. his serious apprehensions as to the injury it would inflict upon his State. The Convention of 1829-30 came near adopting a measure for the prospective abolition of slavery; and but for the efficiency of Messrs. Arthur Tappan, his brother, and Garirson and others, it was then believed such a measure would have passed the Convention. The horrors of Southampton reversed the tide of sentiment in the legislature which succeeded the Convention, and abolition was postponed indefinitely. "First blow, for freedom," indeed ! It was the deadliest blow to kind feeling for the blacks and to the growing sentiment in favor of abolition which could have been inflicted. It was an event horrible to all men, civilized. and savage, and which should not be revived by any one save for deprecation and regret.    


The Rev. Mr. Williams would much better subserve the cause of Christianity- would much better advance the interests of the colored people and inculcate the kind and conciliatory feeling which is indispensable to peaceful and prosperous relations between the blacks and the whites- if he would refrain from reviving such bloody and revolting recollections. But to revive them only to endorse them is an act of hostility. It can receive no other interpretation. The Rev. Mr. Colver, of Massachusetts, who is reported to be a kind-hearted and philanthropic man, was present, and would have done himself credit and subserved the cause of justice by excepting to the use made of that horror of horrors -the Southampton massacre.


The bad teachers of the. blacks of Virginia, who find it to their interest to separate them from the great body of the people for party purposes, are weaving in with their orations such reminiscences as may accomplish their objects; all of which tend to foment bad feeling and suggest distrust in the minds of the freedmen of the people amongst whom they live, and upon whom they must depend for employment—the people with whose welfare theirs is clearly identified. But these things will pass away. The blacks will find out the shallow-hearted- ness of the unscrupulous and selfish persons who are widening the breach between them and those whose prosperity is theirs, and whose peace alone can give them repose; and they will curse the day when they listened to the cunning and heartless stories of the hypocrites now misleading them.      




Map of Barbados, by Richard Ligon, ca. 1647-50, Latin American Library, Tulane University. Ligon, who lived in Barbados between 1647 and 1650, wrote about the enslaved society that contributed a significant number of the first permanent African descended settlers in Carolina. Large sugar estates identified on Ligon's map occupied the best land on the island, displacing many small farmers. By the mid seventeenth century, an enslaved black majority grouped together on large plantations was a constant source of anxiety to the declining white population. Ligon may have been thinking of a failed slave revolt that took place in Barbados in the 1640s when he included the drawing of runaways being pursued by the militia on the map. The militia were responsible for controlling the slave population and defending white English rule on the island.