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Cudjoe, Codjoe or Captain Cudjoe (c. 1660s – 1764),[1][2] sometimes spelled Cudjo[3] – corresponding to the Akan day name Kojo, Codjoe or Kwadwo – was a Maroon leader in Jamaica during the time of Nanny of the Maroons. In Twi, Cudjoe or Kojo is the name given to a boy born on a Monday. He has been described as "the greatest of the Maroon leaders."[4]

The Jamaican Maroons are descended from Africans who conquered enslavers and established communities of Free black people in Jamaica in the mountains of the Colony of Jamaica during the era of slavery on the island. African slaves imported during the Spanish period may have provided the first runaways, apparently mixing with the Native American Taino or Arawak[5] people that remained in the country. Some may have gained liberty when the English attacked Jamaica and took it in 1655, and subsequently. Cudjoe was the leader of a community of runaway slaves known as Cudjoe's Town (Trelawny Town). For nearly a century, until the 1739 and 1740 peace treaties with the British rulers of the island, the Maroons victoriously resisted conquest.

Origins of Cudjoe[edit]

Western slaves ran away into the Cockpit Country and established the first community of Leeward Maroons in the mountainous interior of the island. The runaway slaves were called Maroons, after the Spanish word cimarron.[6]

The Leeward Maroons most likely emerged in 1690 when there was a Coromantee rebellion on Sutton's estate in western Jamaica, and most of these slaves ran away to form the Leeward Maroons.[7] Cudjoe is probably the son of one of the leaders of this revolt.[8]

Milton McFarlane explains that his family's Accompong Town Maroon oral history states that Cudjoe was the freeborn son of Naquan, who was the leader of the rebels who fled from Sutton's estate.[9] According to contemporary white planters, Cudjoe challenged a Madagascan escaped slave for the leadership of the Leeward Maroons in 1720, and when he defeated and killed his challenger, Cudjoe became the undisputed leader of these western Maroons.[10]

The two main Maroon groups in the 18th century were the Leeward and the Windward Maroons, the former led by Cudjoe in Trelawny Town and the latter led by Queen Nanny and Quao.[11]


White colonial physician R. C. Dallas, who wrote his account half a century after Cudjoe lived, claimed the Maroon leader was short and stout, with a "wildness in his manners". He also described Cudjoe as having "a very large lump of flesh upon his back, which was partly covered by the tattered remains of an old blue coat, of which the skirts and the sleeves below the elbow were wanting."[12] Slaver Thomas Thistlewood, who actually met Cudjoe in 1750, noted in his diary that "he had on a feather’d hat, Sword at his Side, gun upon his Shoulder...Bare foot and Bare legg’d, somewhat a Majestic look".[13]

Treaty with the British[edit]

During the First Maroon War of the 1730s, the English colonial forces failed to secure any significant victories against Cudjoe's Leeward Maroons.[14]

In 1739, Cudjoe reached an agreement with the British that recognized the Leeward Maroons as an independent nation. The Maroons also received a large tract of land and would not have to pay any taxes on it. However, Cudjoe, in return for this recognition of autonomy, promised to return runaway slaves and help put down future slave rebellions.[15] In the 1740s, some Leeward Maroons who opposed the 1739 treaty rose in revolt, but Cudjoe crushed those rebellions.[16]

According to one story, Cudjoe died at Nanny Town in the Blue Mountains five years after peace was concluded.[17] However, white Jamaican writers Edward Long and Thomas Thistlewood wrote of personal encounters with Cudjoe in the 1750s and 1760s. In the last written reference, Long described how Cudjoe led his Leeward Maroons in a martial performance at Montego Bay for Governor Sir William Lyttleton in 1764. That same year, Thistlewood reported receiving news that "Colonel Cudjoe is dead some time ago".[2]


The treaty of 1739 named Accompong as Cudjoe's successor, and Accompong tried to take control of Trelawny Town when Cudjoe died in 1764. However, the governor, Roger Hope Elletson, asserted his new authority over the Leeward Maroons. Elletson instructed Superintendent John James to take the Trelawny Town badge of authority away from Accompong, and to give it to a Trelawny Town Maroon officer named Lewis. James instructed Accompong that he was to only have authority over Accompong Town.[18]

Cudjoe Day is celebrated in Jamaica on the first Monday in January.[19]


  1. ^ Kopytoff, B. (1976). "The Development of Jamaican Maroon Ethnicity", Caribbean Quarterly, 22(2/3), 33–50.
  2. ^ a b Michael Sivapragasam, After the Treaties: A Social, Economic and Demographic History of Maroon Society in Jamaica, 1739–1842, PhD Dissertation, African-Caribbean Institute of Jamaica library (Southampton: Southampton University, 2018), pp. 61–2.
  3. ^ Thomas W. Krise, "Cudjo", in Junius P. Rodriguez (ed.), The Historical Encyclopedia of World Slavery, Volume 1, 1997, p. 203.
  4. ^ J. A. Rogers (2010). "Captain Cudjoe". World's Great Men of Color, Volume 2. Simon and Schuster. p. 222. ISBN 9781451603071.
  5. ^ E. Kofi Agorsah, 'Archaeology of Maroon Settlements in Jamaica', Maroon Heritage: Archaeological, Ethnographic and Historical Perspectives, ed. by E. Kofi Agorsah (Kingston: University of the West Indies Canoe Press, 1994), pp. 180–81.
  6. ^ Sivapragasam, After the Treaties (2018), p. 3.
  7. ^ Edward Long papers, British Library, Add MS 12431, folio 71.
  8. ^ Hart, Richard, Slaves who Abolished Slavery (Kingston, Jamaica: University of the West Indies Press, 2002), p. 43.
  9. ^ Milton McFarlane, Cudjoe the Maroon (London: Allison & Busby, 1977), p. 24.
  10. ^ Mavis Campbell, The Maroons of Jamaica 1655-1796: a History of Resistance, Collaboration & Betrayal (Massachusetts: Bergin & Garvey, 1988), pp. 45–46.
  11. ^ Bev Carey, The Maroon Story: The Authentic and Original History of the Maroons in the History of Jamaica 1490–1880 (Kingston, Jamaica: Agouti Press, 1997)
  12. ^ Dallas, Robert Charles, The History of the Maroons, From Their Origin to the Establishment of Their Chief Tribe at Sierra Leone (London: A. Strahan, 1803), p. 53 vol. 1
  13. ^ Sivapragasam, After the Treaties (2018), p. 61.
  14. ^ Craton, Michael (2009). Testing the Chains: Resistance to Slavery in the British West Indies. Cornell University Press. p. 87. ISBN 978-0-8014-7528-3.
  15. ^ Craton (2009). Testing the Chains. p. 389.
  16. ^ Orlando Patterson, 'Slavery and Slave Revolts: A Sociohistorical Analysis of the First Maroon War, 1665-1740', Maroon Societies: Rebel Slave Communities in the Americas, ed. by Richard Price (London: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996), p. 273.
  17. ^ "Origins of the Jamaican Maroons". The National Library of Jamaica.
  18. ^ Sivapragasam, After the Treaties (2018), pp. 62–3.
  19. ^ Understanding Slavery Initiative.