Armed slave revolts in Guyana

Armed slave revolts in Guyana

  • Walk through a Guiana swamp. [Tardieu the elder after William Blake]

  • Negro suspended alive by the ribs. [Tardieu the elder after William Blake]

  • Extract from a letter from Sévère Hérault addressed to his sister, Léonice.

  • The way the Negroes fight, between the bushes.

To close

Title: Walk through a Guiana swamp. [Tardieu the elder after William Blake]

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Technique and other indications: Etching. Copy of Tardieu the elder of an engraving by William Blake Extract from the French translation Voyage to Surinam and the interior of Guyana ... by Captain JG Stedman, published in Paris, at F. Buisson, year VII -1798-1799. Pl. 32.

Storage place: Departmental Archives of Martinique website

Contact copyright: © Departmental Archives of Martiniques website

Picture reference: Res. 4 ° 2.

Walk through a Guiana swamp. [Tardieu the elder after William Blake]

© Departmental Archives of Martinique

To close

Title: Negro suspended alive by the ribs. 9.

Storage place: Departmental Archives of Martinique website

Contact copyright: © Departmental Archives of Martiniques website

Picture reference: Res. 4 ° 2.

Negro suspended alive by the ribs. [Tardieu the elder after William Blake]

© Departmental Archives of Martinique

To close

Title: Extract from a letter from Sévère Hérault to his sister, Léonice.

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Creation date : 1809

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Technique and other indications: Extract from a letter from Sévère Hérault (Nantes, 1780-Guyane, 1827), bursar of the Mont-Plaisant plantation and member of the Cayenne militia, addressed to his sister, Léonice.

Storage place: Loire-Atlantique departmental archives website

Contact copyright: © Loire-Atlantique departmental archives

Picture reference: FR AD44 / J27

Extract from a letter from Sévère Hérault addressed to his sister, Léonice.

© Loire-Atlantique departmental archives

To close

Title: The way the Negroes fight, between the bushes.

Author :

Date shown:

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Technique and other indications: Etching. Engraving by Tardieu. Excerpt from the French translation Voyage à Surinam et dans le Interior de la Guyane ... 31.

Storage place: Departmental Archives of Martinique website

Contact copyright: © Departmental Archives of Martiniques website

Picture reference: Res. 4 ° 2.

The way the Negroes fight, between the bushes.

© Departmental Archives of Martinique

Publication date: April 2007

Video

Armed slave revolts in Guyana

Video

Historical context

The region of the Guyanas, and particularly the Dutch colony which brought together nearly 50,000 slaves, was characterized by incessant and large-scale revolts. Failed, the Government of Suriname has for only solution of

conclude treaties recognizing as free peoples two groups of rebellious slaves, the Njuka (1760) and Saramaka (1762) who settled beyond the colonization zone. The phenomenon of "grand marronnage" represents the most radical questioning that slaves oppose to the slave system which is the basis of the very existence of these colonies.

From 1765 to 1793, a new episode of revolt opposes, in Cottica, a group of rebels, led by the fugitive

Boni, to a corps of 800 European volunteers, supported by an elite troop of slaves who were promised emancipation. Following these operations, the surviving rebels collectively take the name of their leader Boni and seek

refuge in French Guyana where they were repeatedly refused by the authorities (1776, 1837 and 1841). They were in turn recognized as a free people by the two colonies in 1860.

Image Analysis

Walk through a Guyana swamp

Dutch soldiers advance, trapped in the swamps, undecided on which direction to take and fearing an attack from an invisible enemy. They pursue, in Dutch Guyana, the maroons, rebellious slaves formed in bands, who attack and destroy the colonial establishments. The guns, arms and hands of soldiers intersect in parallel lines. Stray gazes diverge in the slanting rain falling from a menacing cloud mass. Mired in this unknown equatorial swamp, the troops are caught under the fire of chestnuts hidden in the top of the palm trees, like fantastic insects.

The image comes from the account of the five years of war in Guyana published in 1796 in London by John Gabriel Stedman, veteran of the corps of 800 men dispatched by the Stadtholder of Holland, in 1774. From a watercolor by Stedman, the famous William Blake, English poet, painter and engraver, imagines guerrilla warfare in the woods. A staunch supporter of the abolition of the slave trade and slavery, he is sensitive to the Maroons' relentless struggle for freedom.

The close framing of the foreground immerses the reader in the experience of soldiers in the field. The brutal profile of the colonel, stretched towards an invisible goal, contrasts with the enigmatic expression of the young black hunter, charged with checking the depth of the swamp by swimming, at the head of the column. The military often use ex-maroons to guide them into unfamiliar and hostile terrain in exchange for a promise of freedom. Behind, like the black porter, officers and marines hold their weapons and ammunition on their heads. Whatever happens, they will only have one shot to fire because, stuck in water, they will not be able to reload their weapon without wetting the frame. The bayonet will be the last resort.

Negro suspended alive, by the ribs

The other etchings that Blake composes for this book reveal, with unprecedented realism, the persecutions suffered by blacks and the relations between masters and slaves in Dutch Guyana. The most famous figure is one of the leaders of the rebels who, suspended alive from a gallows by the ribs, by means of a hook attached to a chain, took three days to die. Scattered skulls and bones evoke the horror of the execution site as the offshore boat suggests milking. Contrary to the general appreciation of the ugliness of black people, Blake show them all very beautiful. Original or copied, as here for the French translation, his images of visionary modernism serve the cause of abolition.

A fight against the brown villages of Simon Frossard in French Guiana

In 1809, Simon Frossard, a former slave who had become "brown" for over fifty years, managed to keep alive a small community of fugitives, reinforced by the farmers who wanted to escape the reestablishment of slavery in Guyana in 1802. Having learned to survive in the Amazonian environment by adopting the lifestyle of the Amerindians, sometimes practicing thefts and raids on the plantations, nearly two hundred people, who also subject themselves to a harsh discipline to preserve the secret of their existence. With experienced chefs, they have created discreet villages just over fifty kilometers from the coast: Jolie Terre commissioned by Simon; Snake, commanded by Charlemagne, Berthier and Léveillé-Terrasson; Sainte-Elisabeth, commissioned by Georges “Creole des Bois” and Paulin, commissioned by the same Paulin ... It was then that the Cayenne militia, responsible for the repression of the great marronnage and 80 armed men, was launched in pursuit of them. Sévère Hérault, who was enlisted there, describes this campaign in several of his letters to his sister: ransacked villages, burnt huts, chestnuts pursued and finished in the woods, until the capture of Simon Frossard whose head is brought back to Cayenne. to be exposed.

Way in which the Negroes fight, between the Bushes

“Knowing perfectly the woods and all the rivers that one finds there, he [Simon Frossard] never lost his way and was always sure to meet us in narrow and almost impassable passages: it was there that we ran extreme risks. and that we received shootings that almost always killed or injured someone. As soon as their discharge was made, the brigands fled, shouting with joy. We retaliated, but on whom? We didn't see anyone. Twenty paces farther on, our rascals were still lying in wait and hidden in the thick brush and receiving us as before. This is how they waged war. Woe to him who had fallen into their hands, he would have been infallibly massacred. "

Like John Stedman, Sévère Hérault was struck by the fighting techniques of chestnuts which take all their effectiveness in the steep relief and under the forest cover of Guyana.

Interpretation

The great marronnage had the lasting consequence of generating new peoples in the Guyana region, born out of a rejection of slavery and who still today constitute groups with a strong and original cultural identity. The memory of this resistance of the "First Times", carried by oral tradition, is one of its most striking expressions.

  • colonial history
  • slavery
  • Guyana
  • marooning
  • overseas

Bibliography

Gabriel DEBIENA Nantes man hunting for chestnuts in Guyana, October-December 1808Extract from Enquêtes et documents, Vol. 1., Nantes, Publications of the Center for Research on the History of Atlantic France, 1971. Richard PRICE and Sally PRICEChestnutsChateauneuf-le-Rouge, Vents Outre, 2003 John GABRIEL, Richard PRICE and Sally PRICEStedman's Surinam: Life in an Eighteenth-Century Slave Society The Hispanic American Historical Review, Vol. 73, No. 3 (Aug., 1993 ), pp. 511-513 John Gabriel STEDMANVoyage to Surinam and the interior of Guyana ... by Captain J. G. Stedman. Translated from English by P.-F. Henry. Follow-up of the table of the French colony of Cayenne [by Daniel LescallierParis, F. Buisson, year VII / 1798-1799. (3 vol. In-8? + 2 Atlas. In-4 °) Guide to the sources of the slave trade, slavery and their abolitionDirectorate of Archives de France, La documentation française, Paris, 2007.

To cite this article

Luce-Marie ALBIGÈS and Françoise LEMAIRE, “Armed revolts of slaves in Guyana”


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