Cudjoe, or Captain Cudjoe (c. 1680 – 1744), sometimes spelled Cudjo - corresponding to the Akan day name Kojo or Kwadwo - was a Maroon leader in Jamaica during the time of Nanny of the Maroons. He has been described as "the greatest of the Maroon leaders."
The Jamaican Maroons are descended from runaway slaves who established free communities in the mountains 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 people that remained in the country. Some may have gained liberty when the English attacked Jamaica and took it in 1655, and subsequently. For about 52 years, until the 1737 peace treaty with the British rulers of the island, the Maroons stubbornly resisted conquest.
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Cudjoe is believed (according to Maroon oral tradition) to have been the son of Quateng, a chief or omanhene in Asanteman or Coromantee people from what is present-day Ghana. Quateng was taken captive and sold into slavery in Spanish Jamaica in the 1640s, but he initiated a revolt and led his tribesmen into the mountainous interior of the island; establishing the first community of Maroons, as the runaway slaves were called, after the Spanish word cimarron, meaning "wild".
The two main Maroon groups in the 18th century were the Leeward and the Windward tribes, the former led by Cudjoe in Trelawny Town and the latter led by Queen Nanny (and later by Quao).
Treaty with the British
Cudjoe reached an agreement that the British must recognize the Maroons as an independent nation and that the Maroons receive 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.
Cudjoe Day is celebrated in Jamaica on the first Monday in January.
- Thomas W. Krise, "Cudjo", in Junius P. Rodriguez (ed.), The Historical Encyclopedia of World Slavery, Volume 1, 1997, p. 203.
- J. A. Rogers (2010). "Captain Cudjoe". World's Great Men of Color, Volume 2. Simon and Schuster. p. 222.
- Craton, Michael (2009). Testing the Chains: Resistance to Slavery in the British West Indies. Cornell University Press. p. 389. ISBN 978-0-8014-7528-3.
- "Origins of the Jamaican Maroons". The National Library of Jamaica.
- Understanding Slavery Initiative.