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Did Your Ancestor Spend Time as a Maroon During Enslavement?

January 18, 2020

 Sylviane A. Diouf, Slavery's Exiles, (C-SPAN: 3 March 2014)

 

What is an African or Black Maroon?  A maroon was not a enslaved person leaving the plantation for a free state or borders for another country. It was a person who left enslavement for good "to go into the Southern woods to stay." I leaned about African or Black Maroons from the book Slavery's Exiles written by Sylviane A. Diouf. "Sylviane A. Diouf is an award-winning historian of the African Diaspora," from Sylviane Anna Diouf, Historian of the African Diaspora.

 

Eric Foner Professor at Columbia University interviewed Sylviane A. Diouf on C-SPAN in 2014 where she gave a history of maroons and her research. Watch Slavery's Exiles to learn about these people who decided to leave enslavement and establish communities in the South away from the control of enslavement. 

 

Sylviane A. Diouf looked for people who settled in the wilderness, they had to be there in secret, and they had to be and they were not under control of anyone. She used legal documents which showed where they were and what they were doing and what threats they posed. County books, plantation books, newspaper articles, trials of maroons, trail of people who helped them, oral histories of former runaways, WPA interviews, were all sources that she studied.

 

Sylviane A. Diouf has very specific examples from Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Louisiana and more. For now I have selected two from South Carolina:

 

 

Williiam H. Gist's home. South Carolina Department of Archives and History provided photo: 

http://www.nationalregister.sc.gov/union/S10817744002/pages/S1081774400203.htm

 

Example 1

"Near water and in an open area was the location Jack Gist chose for his underground home. He dug his cave near a road, by a bridge that crossed a creek close to the property of William H. Gist, state senator and then Governor of South Carolina. The bridge, the creek, and the road were far from secluded; people passed by Jack's den constantly. Nevertheless, no one noticed it or him,"  pg. 102, Slavery's Exiles, Sylviane A. Diouf. 

 

Example 2

"In Anderson County, South Carolina in the woods not far, Mary went on trial on March 9, 1843. She was accused of harboring Simon, who had lived in the woods from November 1842 to February 1843. She knew he was a maroon but she did "harbor Simon a Slave by carrying to him victuals, and spirits and by sleeping with him the said Simon in a camp in the woods not far from the house of the said O. R. Broyles," pg. 81, Slavery's Exiles.

 

I am excited to discover African or Black Maroons. There are examples of many who spent years living this way. Some came back into society in 1865. Some moved near family that had been moved during enslavement. They lived without control of enslavement. They lived without the control the even Free People of Color had because they were under no one's control. They were not segregated or discriminated against. "Voluntary separation and self-determination is something that runs deep in the African American community," said Sylviane A. Diouf  in the C-SPAN interview. 

 

We at Genealogy! Just Ask! have set up a new group: African or Black Maroons Genealogy! Just Ask! where we will work to identify those ancestors who spent time as maroons. Come join us!

 

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