Florida’s History of African Resistance
The story of the Maroons is missing from American education
Last week, I saw one of my mentors — the filmmaker Haile Gerima. He was working when I stepped into his editing station, located in the heart of Washington D.C., near Howard University. At the time, Gerima was busy editing two documentary films, one about the war between Italy and Ethiopia and another about Maroons in America.
If you have never heard of Maroons, it may be a good time to read up on them or watch some documentaries because their history is fascinating. Most Americans have never heard of Maroons because, like much of Black history, their stories have been hidden in obscurity. There’s a reason why.
Have you heard of the Maroons?
Maroons have been described in various ways, but the most consistent feature is they are self-liberated Africans who ran away or escaped slavery and fought to remain free. Often, they formed hidden communities and plotted uprisings to liberate other Africans—some formed bonds with Native American communities, finding allies to aid them in their struggle. This slice of history is beyond the watered-down tales that often find their way into history classes. Most Americans don’t realize that Maroons existed in great numbers. The revolutionary truth that Black people resisted slavery is often concealed.
Archaeologist Terry Weik noted that Maroons “are peoples of the African Diaspora who escaped from enslavement and lived independently of plantation societies in the Americas (Price 1979:1–2; Hart 1985:1–5).”
Historian Tolagbe Ogunleye described Maroons in Florida in the Journal of Black Studies specifically:
“Determined to no longer be held against their will, untold numbers of stalwart Africans emancipated themselves from their enslavers living predominantly in the areas now known as Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama, and Louisiana: They headed for the abandoned or remote areas in Florida to establish communities or take up residence in one of the autonomous settlements established by Africans who had previously fled.