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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Regions with significant populations
Suriname (Paramaribo · Coronie · Brokopondo · Marowijne · Para)
Dutch, Sranan Tongo, Maroon languages
Christianity, Winti

Afro-Surinamese are the inhabitants of Suriname of mostly West African and Central African ancestry. They are descended from enslaved Africans brought to work on sugar plantations. Many of them escaped the plantations and formed independent settlements together, becoming known as Maroons and Bushinengue. They maintained vestiges of African culture and language. They are usually split into two ethnic subgroups (Creoles and Maroons).



Most of the enslaved people imported to Suriname came from West Central Africa (circa 61,500 slaves, 27% of the total number), Gold Coast (Ghana) (circa 46,000, 21% of the total), Windward Coast (circa 45,000, 20%), and Bight of Benin (more than 32,000, 14% of the total). Thousands of enslaved people also arrived from Bight of Biafra (circa 11,000, 5.0% of the total) and Sierra Leone (circa 3,600, 1.6% of the total).[1] The total number of enslaved people was estimated at 220,000.[2]

The Akans from the central Ghana were, officially, the predominant ethnic group of slaves in Suriname. However, in practice, enslaved people from Loango,[3] purchased in Cabinda, Angola,[4] were the largest group of slaves in Suriname since 1670; they surpassed the number on the Gold Coast in almost all periods. Enslaved people including the Ewe (who live in southern Ghana, Togo and Benin), Igbo (from Nigeria), Yoruba (from Benin[5]) and Kongo (who live in the Republic of Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Angola), all left their cultural footprints in Suriname.



The Dutch were involved in the slave trade during the early colonial years. They sought office space for their plantations. The space they received was when the British in the Treaty of Breda (1667) gave land on the northern coast of South America, ceded to them in exchange for New York. Suriname became a slave colony. Slaves were rapidly shipped from Africa to Suriname to work on coffee, cocoa, and sugar plantations for the Dutch and other Europeans.[6]

Because they remained strictly separated from the white population, the slaves developed their own culture with a strong West African influence. They had their own religion, Winti, and their own language, Sranan Tongo. They also used this as a subtle form of resistance. For example, many slave songs had a critical undertone. However, the planters did not realize this because they often had a poor understanding of Sranan Tongo.[7]

Slavery was officially abolished in Suriname on July 1, 1863 by the Emancipation Act. 32,911 slaves were released.[8] Slave owners received compensation of 300 guilders per freed slave. The slaves themselves received no compensation.[9] Although slavery was abolished, those freed did not immediately receive full freedom. They were obliged to continue working as contract workers in their district for another ten years on the basis of annual contracts.[10] This is called the period of "state supervision", during which the released people came under the supervision of a district commissioner of the government. Various restrictions were imposed during this period, which meant that slavery was partly continued.[11]


Maroon group in 1930

Escaped enslaved people in Suriname and French Guiana, known as Maroons or Bushinengues, fled to the interior and joined with indigenous peoples to create several independent tribes, among them the Saramaka, the Paramaka, the Ndyuka (Aukan), the Kwinti, the Aluku (Boni), the Matawai,[12] and the Brooskampers.[13] By 1740, the maroons had formed clans and felt strong enough to challenge the Dutch colonists, forcing them to sign peace treaties. Because of their long isolation in interior rainforests, they maintained more African culture than did ethnic Africans in the cities.

From 1972 to 1978, two American professors, S. Allen Counter and David L. Evans, made seven voyages upriver into the maroon areas. Both African Americans, they wanted to contact these communities and learn about the peoples, to see what African cultures they followed.[14]

By the 1980s, the maroons in Suriname had begun to fight for their land rights to protect territory which they had long occupied.[15] They won an important case in 2007 at the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, which ruled they had rights to their traditional lands.[15]

Notable Afro-Surinamese people



  1. ^ Borges 2014, p. 41, : Based on embarkation with 10% undetermined, therefore all figures are at least ±10%
  2. ^ Borges 2014, p. 41.
  3. ^ Identidades en juego, identidades en guerra (in Spanish: Identities at stake, identities at war) - Page 49
  4. ^ "Batey. Revista Cubana de Antropología Sociocultural (ISSN 2225-529X)". www.revista-batey.com. Retrieved 2019-04-29.
  5. ^ Publico.es: Los genes narran la rebelión de los esclavos Archived December 14, 2010, at the Wayback Machine (in Spanish: Genes tell the Revolt of the slaves). Posted by Núñez Domínguez.
  6. ^ "Bittersweet: Sugar, Slavery, and Science in Dutch Suriname".
  7. ^ Marianne Wilschut, "Het leven van de slaven in de Nederlandse koloniën" (Historisch Nieuwsblad). Archived on 15 June 2018.
  8. ^ Patricia D. Gomes, Afschaffing van de slavernij? In Suriname ging het nog tien jaar voort (De Correspondent - 30 oktober 2017)
  9. ^ de Kom (1934), p. 101-103
  10. ^ Nationaal Archief, Einde aan een treurige geschiedenis van slavernij (1863). Archived on 3 January 2023.
  11. ^ slavernijenjij.nl, Het zure staatstoezicht
  12. ^ Scholtens 1994, pp. 155–156.
  13. ^ Scholtens 1994, p. 33.
  14. ^ Vincent Harding, "A remarkable search for roots;" I Sought My Brother: An Afro-American Reunion, by S. Allen Counter and David L. Evans, Christian Science Monitor, 12 March 1982, accessed 2 October 2013
  15. ^ a b Case of the Saramaka People v. Suriname, Judgment of November 28, 2007, Inter-American Court of Human Rights (La Corte Interamericana de Derechos Humanos), accessed 21 May 2009