Maroon history: Whither 30 pieces of silver?Thursday, February 25, 2021
One of the symbols of the Lenten season, and in particular the week of the Passion (Holy Week), is “30 pieces of silver”. An image borrowed from the account concerning Judas's betrayal of Jesus.
A look at the Articles of Pacification with the Maroons of Trelawney (March 1, 1738) reawakens the yet to be explored history of divide and conquer on the part of the colonisers, and the betrayal and anti-freedom actions of the Maroons at the time.
The Ninth Article of the treaty states, “That if any Negroes shall hereafter run away from their masters or owners, and shall fall into Captain Cudjoe's hands, they shall immediately be sent back to the chief magistrate of the next parish where they are taken; and these that bring them are to be satisfied for their trouble, as the legislature shall appoint.”
Please note that the assembly granted the coveted 30 shillings for each runaway slave returned to his owner by the Maroons, inclusive of expenses.
There is much to be celebrated about the contribution of Maroon culture to Jamaica's heritage and black consciousness. It also adds much to the tourism project and the affirmation of Africa's children who were not afraid to fight for their autonomy and preservation of self-identity in the wilderness away from their homeland.
I still wrestle with questions arising from the “30 pieces of silver” treaty. Was it consistent with freedom fighting to “sell out” to the oppressors? Have we named and faced the betrayal of runaway slaves whose freedom was stopped by those whose goal ignored fellow Africans in the goal for 30 shillings? To what extent may we locate Jamaicans' current distrust and contempt for each other in the genesis of Maroon anti-freedom fighting? Were some of the atrocities meted upon runaway slaves deliberately ignored by academia in a quest to preserve the legend of “Wakanda”? Given the treaty, would there be any place for Maroon interest regarding reparation talks?
Were Captain Cudjoe and his clan simply victims of British exploitation, or were they autonomous agents of self-preservation at the expense of the movement for freedom?
Maybe the Lenten season also calls us to a time of truth and reconciliation. Whenever we surrender to the tyranny of market forces and human greed there are no winners, for even the facilitators have betrayed their humanity.
I am still baffled as to why, in 1865, Paul Bogle's inspired Morant Bay fight against injustice was met by Maroon destructive power aided by ammunition from the evil powers of colonial oppressors. Why was Paul Bogle, later national hero, fought, captured, and handed over by the Maroons? Is there a place for an exploration of this thesis — Maroon history: A foundation for white supremacy or freedom fighting? And, could this happen again?
Fr Sean C Major-Campbell is a human rights advocate and public theologian. Send comments to the Jamaica Observer or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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