Cudjoe, Codjoe or Captain Cudjoe (c. 1690s – 1764), sometimes spelled Cudjo - corresponding to the Akan day name Kojo, Codjoe 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. 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.
R.C. Dallas, who wrote his account half a century after Cudjoe lived, claimed the Maroon leader was described 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." Planter 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".
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. A Coromantee revolt on Sutton's estate in the parish of Clarendon in 1690 led to the establishment of the Leeward Maroons. 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.
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.
Treaty with the British
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. In the 1740s, some Leeward Maroons who opposed the 1739 treaty rose in revolt, but Cudjoe crushed those rebellions.
According to one story, Cudjoe died at Nanny Town in the Blue Mountains five years after peace was concluded. 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".
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.
Cudjoe Day is celebrated in Jamaica on the first Monday in January.
- KOPYTOFF, B. (1976). THE DEVELOPMENT OF JAMAICAN MAROON ETHNICITY. Caribbean Quarterly, 22(2/3), 33-50. Retrieved from https://www.jstor.org/stable/40653152
- Michael Siva, 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.
- 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.
- 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. 180-1.
- 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
- Siva, After the Treaties, p. 61. https://eprints.soton.ac.uk/423482/1/LIBRARY_COPY_After_The_Treaties_Final.pdf
- Milton McFarlane, Cudjoe the Maroon (London: Allison & Busby, 1977), p. 24
- Edward Long papers, British Library, Add. MSS 12431, folio 71.
- Mavis Campbell, The Maroons of Jamaica 1655-1796: a History of Resistance, Collaboration & Betrayal (Massachusetts: Bergin & Garvey, 1988), pp. 45-46.
- Siva, After the Treaties, p. 3.
- 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)
- Craton, Michael. Testing the Chains. Cornell University Press, 1982, p. 87.
- 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.
- 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.
- "Origins of the Jamaican Maroons". The National Library of Jamaica.
- Siva, After the Treaties pp. 61-2
- Siva, After the Treaties, pp. 62-3.
- Understanding Slavery Initiative.