Queen Nanny (1686 – circa. 1740)


The fearless military leader of The Windward Maroons.

queen nanny

Queen Nanny is said to be one of the most revered military leaders of the 18th Century. Born in Ghana -then known as the Gold Coast- in 1686, history is a bit unclear on how she got on the island. Some say she was brought on by way of the transatlantic enslavement trade, where she & her 3 brothers then escaped from a plantation to Eastern Jamaica. While many others say Queen Nanny -of the Ashanti people- was a royal blood who travelled to Eastern Jamaica willing, as a free woman, along with her 3 siblings. Whatever the case, one thing that correlates across boards is; Queen Nanny was tired of British domination & slavery in Jamaica. She sought refugee in the Eastern “Blue” Mountains. There she created herself a “safe place”.

Escaped enslaved people who ran away from Spanish-occupied plantations when the British took over the Caribbean Island were called the Maroons; derived from the Spanish word ‘cimarrones’, which meant ‘mountaineers’. Maroon communities mostly consisted of people from the Gold Coast, the Congo & the Americas. Spirituality was a huge part of their lives. Queen Nanny is credited as a huge factor in the unification of Maroons across Jamaica. She guided the Maroons through the most intense period of their resistance against the British.

Queen Nanny was a clever master in guerrilla warfare & she taught the Maroon troops the art of camouflage. Instructing them to cover themselves in leaves & telling them to stand as still as possible so as to look like trees. British troops were documented to walk directly into Maroon ambushes. There is an account from a British solider who claimed to have seen 10ft tall trees moving around & “swallowing men up whole”. In 1737 -the height of the resistance- legend has it that Queen Nanny was at the brink of surrender. Her people were starving & so they were getting weak. Maroon people where known to be fearless ruthless warriors. Queen Nanny decided to rest her head & it was said she heard the voices of her ancestors persuading her not to quit! She woke up to pumpkin seeds in her pocket which she planted on the hillside.

Within weeks! They yielded fruit, providing much needed sustenance for the starving community. Afterwards, the hill – near then Nanny Town- was called “Pumpkin Hill”.
Queen Nanny practiced Obeah; a mix of religions from Trinidad &Tobago, Guyana & Belize. Also called Dibia & Obia; Obeah said to be loosely rooted in some Igbo traditions. Queen Nanny was said to be able to catch bullets with her bare hands. Another story tells of a boiling cauldron in the middle of the jungle with no fire
underneath, & when soldiers would look into it, they would fall in to their death. Queen Nanny was hated by the British due to her freedom spirit & ability to rally her troops. She is often described as blood thirsty & unattractive in old western history books.

The specific death of Queen Nanny is a blur. Some documents say murder, while others say she passed away peacefully due to old age. Nanny Town was destroyed after the 1st Maroon war & was later rebuilt & renamed; Moore Town. In Moore Town resides the “Bump” grave in her honor. On March 31, 1982 Queen Nanny became the only woman with the “right excellence” title. You can also find her face on the $500 Jamaican dollar.
Because of her we can.

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