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Resistance on the Plantations

Resistance on the Plantations

On the plantations, many enslaved Africans tried to slow down the pace of work by pretending to be ill, causing fires or ‘accidentally' breaking tools. Whenever possible, enslaved Africans ran away. Some escaped to South America, England or North America. All of these acts made slavery less profitable.

Some enslaved Africans fought back after they had escaped. After England took Jamaica from Spain in 1655, many enslaved Africans escaped inland to the Cockpit hills and set up free communities in the dense forests. For many years these ‘maroons' (from the Spanish ci-marron meaning ‘wild') used guerrilla tactics to attack the plantations.

Resistance was difficult. Enslaved Africans who escaped were often quickly recognised as runaways and returned to be punished by their owners. Unarmed, enslaved Africans had to be brave to fight overseers with guns or the trained army, that could be brought in. Despite this, there were hundreds of slave revolts. Examples are provided below:

  • Barbados (1675) - 6 rebels were burned alive and 11 beheaded
  • Antigua (1735-36) - 77 were burned alive and 6 starved to death
  • Jamaica (1760)
  • Grenada (1795-96)
  • St Lucia (1796-97)

During the late 18th and early 19th century, the slave revolts grew bigger. They made it clear that, if they were not set free, they would soon free themselves. There were hundreds of slave revolts. In the Caribbean, they averaged at least two per year during the period 1789-1815.   

Africa and the Americas have their own local heroes. In his book Abolition! Richard S. Reddie lists men and women such as Nzinga Mbemba of the Congo, King Agaja of Dahomey, Nanny and Cudjoe in Jamaica, Cuffy and Quamina Gladstone in Guyana and Bussa in Barbados.


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