Great Dismal Swamp maroons
Great Dismal Swamp maroons
The Great Dismal Swamp maroons were freed and escaped slaves who inhabited the marshlands of the Great Dismal Swamp in Virginia and North Carolina. Although conditions were harsh, research suggests that thousands lived there between about 1700 and the 1860s. Harriett Beecher Stowe told the maroon people's story in her 1856 novel Dred: A Tale of the Great Dismal Swamp. The most significant research on the settlements began in 2002 with a project by Dan Sayers of American University.
The Great Dismal Swamp spans an area of southeastern Virginia and northeastern North Carolina between the James River near Norfolk, Virginia, and the Albemarle Sound near Edenton, North Carolina. The swamp is estimated to have originally been over 1 million acres (4,000 km2), but human encroachment has destroyed up to 90% of the swampland. Today, the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge is just over 112 thousand acres (450 km2).
Fugitive Slaves in the Dismal Swamp, Virginia, by David Edward Cronin, 1888
The first African slaves brought to the British colonies in Virginia in 1619 came on a Dutch ship. At the time, slaves were treated similarly to indentured servants, becoming free with the passage of a certain period of time. Others gained freedom by converting to Christianity, since the English of that time did not typically enslave Christians. Slave labor was used in many efforts to drain and log the Great Dismal Swamp during the 18th and 19th centuries. Escaped slaves living in freedom came to be known as maroons or outlyers. The origin of the term "maroon" is uncertain, with competing theories linking it to Spanish, Arawak or Taino root words. Maroonage, runaway slaves in isolated or hidden settlements, existed in all the Southern states, and swamp-based maroon communities existed in the Deep South, in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, and South Carolina. Maroonage in the Upper South was largely limited to Virginia and the Great Dismal Swamp.
Osman, a Great Dismal Swamp Maroon, by At the beginning of the 18th century, maroons came to live in the Great David Hunter Strother, 1856 Dismal Swamp. Most settled on mesic islands, the high and dry parts of the swamp. Inhabitants included slaves who had purchased their freedom as well as escaped slaves. Other escaped slaves used the swamp as a route on the Underground Railroad as they made their way further north. Some slaves lived there in semi-free conditions, but how much independence slaves actually enjoyed there has been a topic of much debate. Nearby whites often left enslaved maroons alone so long as they paid a quota in logs or shingles, and businesses may have ignored the fugitive nature of escaped slaves who provided work in exchange for trade goods.
and outcast whites such as criminals. food. The poem uses six quintain stanzas to tell about the "hunted Negro". The title character is a maroon of the Great Dismal Swamp who preaches against slavery and incites slaves to escape. where local militias often captured the residents and destroyed their homes. but most people escaped. Results of a study published in 2007. trading with white people outside the swamp. North Carolina passed a law specifically aimed at apprehending the maroons in the swamp. not just for escaped slaves but also for free blacks. the few small artifacts that have been recovered have given historians little insight into their day-to-day lives. However. though the presence of hunting bolas indicates that the area may have served as a hunting ground as far back as 5. fear of slave unrest and fugitive slaves living among maroon population caused concern amongst local whites. Dred: A Tale of the Great Dismal Swamp. in "Maroons Within the Present Limits of the United States".000 years ago. Some maroons were born to escaped slaves and lived in the swamp for their entire lives despite the hardships of swamp life: dense underbrush. and had more contact with outsiders once canal construction began. Some fugitive slaves plundered nearby farms and plantations. stole from anchored boats. or the descendants of fugitives" lived in the Great Dismal Swamp. Some maroon communities were set up near the Dismal Swamp Canal. Native Americans. A militia with dogs went into the swamp in 1823 in an attempt to remove the maroons and destroy their community. who served as a Union officer in Virginia and witnessed the effect of slavery. Virginia in 1888. During the American Civil War. it is believed to have been one of the largest maroon colonies in the United States. These maroons interacted more with the outside world than those who lived in the swamp's interior. it is possible that the acidity of the water disintegrated any bones which may have been left behind.
References in literature and art
In 1842 Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote the poem "The Slave In Dismal Swamp". and with increased contact with the outside world. mentioning the use of bloodhounds and describing the conditions as being "where hardly a human foot could pass. many of whom then joined the Union Army. Harriett Beecher Stowe. Since the maroons had few possessions. "The Political Economy of Exile in the Great Dismal Swamp". unlike other maroon communities. Because leaving the area could inevitably lead to recapture. Native American communities were already in existence in the swamp when the maroons began to settle there. Most of the maroons who remained in the swamp left after the Civil War. The difficult conditions also made the swamp an ideal hiding place. say that thousands of people lived in the swamp between 1630 and 1865. The poem may have inspired artist David Edward Cronin. and money. excavation has yet to find any human remains. insects. maroons and enslaved laborers on the canal. Maroons are known to have often interacted with slaves and poor whites to obtain work. clothes. Little is known of Native American activity in the area prior to 1600. While the precise number of maroons who lived in the swamp at that time is unknown. According to Sayers. To date. Some took jobs on the canal.
. slaves who worked on the swamp's canals. built between 1793–1805 and still in operation. Native Americans.Great Dismal Swamp maroons Herbert Aptheker stated already in 1939. those caught were tried for murder or theft. the United States Colored Troops entered the swamp to liberate the people there. those in the Great Dismal Swamp mostly avoided capture or the discovery of their homes. the author of Uncle Tom's Cabin. published her second anti-slavery novel. even recycling tool remnants left by Native Americans. to paint Fugitive Slaves in the Dismal Swamp. However. and robbed travelers on nearby roads. some people living in the swamp eventually moved away. In 1856. fugitives. It is established that "several thousand" were living there by the 19th century. and bears. or a human heart would dare". In 1847. that likely "about two thousand Negroes. historical archaeologist at American University who has led research on the maroons of the swamp. poisonous snakes. A 2011 study speculated that thousands may have lived in the swamp between the 1600s and 1860. the inhabitants often used what was readily available in the swamp.
Fish and Wildlife Service (which manages the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge) and American University.  "Digging Up the Secrets of the Great Dismal Swamp" (http:/ / popular-archaeology. gov/ northeast/ greatdismalswamp/ pdf/ URreferencefacts. Tim."
 "Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge" (http:/ / www. 2012). Retrieved February 11.  Aptheker. Fish and Wildlife Service. fws. ac. "The Ghosts Of The Great Dismal Swamp" (http:/ / webzoom. P.2307/2714447. fws. Retrieved January 30. com/ 2012/ 01/ escaped-slaves-may-have-lived-great-dismal-swamp). September 2003. archaeology. American Heritage Magazine.
. com/ UndergroundRailroad. "Letter from Virginia: American Refugees" (http:/ / www. doi:10. the swamp is impenetrable in places. 2011. html).  "Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge" (http:/ / www. The Virginian Pilot.  Blackburn. . gov/ northeast/ greatdismalswamp/ aboutus. .000 to the project in 2010. National Park Service. Retrieved February 11. gov/ northeast/ greatdismalswamp/ ). . Popular Archaeology. International Journal of Historical Archaeology (Springer) 11 (1): 60–97. Retrieved February 5.  "Maroons in the Revolutionary Period 1775–1783" (http:/ / www.  "Colonization" (http:/ / www. Retrieved January 30. . Fish and Wildlife Service. Fish and Wildlife Service. pdf) (PDF). pdf) (PDF). 2012. Brandan. a permanent exhibit was opened by the National Park Service to commemorate those who lived in the swamp during pre-Civil War times. Marion (September–October 2011). nypl. we are increasingly able to show how people have the ability. Bill (January 29.  "The Great Dismal Swamp Landscape Study" (http:/ / www. (March 2007). history. JSTOR 20853121. Prior to Sayers' efforts. html). Public Broadcasting System. org/ 1109/ letter/ great_dismal_swamp_slavery_maroons. 2012. . University of London Institute of Historical Research. Retrieved February 11. doi:10. especially on the self-sustaining maroon settlements in the swamp's interior. html). As details unfold. 2012. Retrieved February 5. Henry. New York Public Library – The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. . besavvy2. 2012. com/ midnightsea/ The Great Dismal Swamp . 2012. Sayers summarizes: "These groups are very inspirational. no field research had been done on the Great Dismal Swamp maroons. Inc. a historical archaeologist at American University's Department of Anthropology. even under oppressive conditions.  "Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge" (http:/ / www.  "Freedom in the Swamp: Unearthing the Secret History of the Great Dismal Swamp" (http:/ / www.  Lockley. Anthropology Summer Field Study. Retrieved February 4. . to take control of their lives.S. . cfm). 2012. Even today. 2012. The Journal of Negro History (Association for the Study of African American Life and History. HTM).  "Maroon in the United States" (http:/ / abolition. nps. May 15. slavery. 2012. gov/ nr/ travel/ jamesriver/ colonization. . It also studies native lifestyles before European contact. com/ issue/ april-2011/ article/ digging-up-the-secrets-of-the-great-dismal-swamp). Camden County. Retrieved January 30. 2012. "Maroons Within the Present Limits of the United States". and development on the swamp.) 24 (2): 167–184. . Sites deep in the swamp's interior are still so remote that a guide is needed to find them. com/ news/ 2011-05-freedom-swamp-unearthing-secret-history. Burke. 2011. org/ images/ african_resistance/ 4/ 17). Retrieved February 11. "Escaped slaves may have lived in Great Dismal Swamp" (http:/ / hamptonroads. Physorg. fws. 2012. Retrieved February 12. freewebs.  Tidwell. It examines the impact of colonialism.  Bartel. In 2003.  "Great Dismal Swamp" (http:/ / www. Fish and Wildlife Service. initiated the annual research program titled the Great Dismal Swamp Archaeology Field School. edu/ cas/ anthropology/ courses/ summer.Great Dismal Swamp maroons
The Great Dismal Swamp Landscape Study began in 2002 and was led by Dan Sayers. Herbert (April 1939). he conducted the first excavation in the swamp. a research group gave up in 2003 because it lost its way so many times. 2012. as individuals and communities. NC. american. pdf) (PDF). . In fall 2011. egovlink. Aaron M. "Runaway Slave Communities in South Carolina" (http:/ / www. . physorg. May 16. . html). John (August 2001). JSTOR 2714447. pbs. . 2012.1007/s10761-006-0022-2. Daniel. org/ wgbh/ aia/ part2/ 2p50. This effort continues the work of the landscape study. fws.  "The Underground Railroad" (http:/ / camdencountync. cfm). About us. American Institute of Archaeology (Archaeological Institute of America) 64 (5). "The Political Economy of Exile in the Great Dismal Swamp". Welcome!. in partnership with the U. Retrieved January 30. American University College of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved February 11. The National Endowment for the Humanities gave the "We The People Award" of $200. Retrieved February 5. Retrieved January 30. gov/ historicPreservation/ publications/ pdfs/ GreatDismalSwamp.  Sayers. 2012. 2012. . html). The Great Dismal Swamp and the Underground Railroad. uk/ ihr/ Focus/ Slavery/ articles/ lockley. 2012. and in 2009.
 "The Slave in the Dismal Swamp" (http:/ / www.cfm) • Royster Guide: A Visit To The Great Dismal Swamp (http://gradschool.pl?trx=vx&list=H-Slavery& month=1012&week=e&msg=MfJ5sqUMmiQYUY/Wu39hlQ&user=&pw=) • Historical photos related to the Great Dismal Swamp (http://www. . org/ poems_poem. 2012. The Society of American Archivists.edu/cas/faculty/sayers. org:8080/ emuseum/ view/ objects/ asitem/ 5083/ 9/ title-asc?t:state:flow=bb1a5466-60ac-4a9b-897e-cb6768ced44d).lib.com/kids/socsci/nc/ books/bke/wklyrdr/article8.cgi?collection=ugrr) • Virginia Tourist Guide – Great Dismal Swamp (http://www.  "Fugitive Slaves in the Dismal Swamp. 2012. 173. National Underground Railroad Freedom Research Center. heraldextra. Tom (July 5. 1954. php?pid=99). hwlongfellow. freedomcenter.edu/blogs/ncm/index. Retrieved March 9. A Maine Historical Society Website. fws.org/_pdfs/Jackson.dismalswampwelcomecenter. unc. pp. Retrieved March 14.american.shtml) • 2011 Great Dismal Swamp Fire (http://articles. ariesnonprofit. org/ underground-railroad/ history/ routes/ ).com/P1.php) • New York Historical Society background on the Cronin painting (http://emuseum.com/Articles/Article_20. January 1. 2012.slaveryinamerica. . A Tale of the Great Dismal Swamp.php) • North Carolina law concerning Dismal Swamp slaves (http://www. com/ news/ national/ article_d2480b38-7a5c-563f-9b97-c89b133f877d. Retrieved February 11. "Swamp Holds Clues About Runaway Slaves" (http:/ / www.org:8080/ emuseum/view/objects/asitem/5083/9/title-asc?t:state:flow=bb1a5466-60ac-4a9b-897e-cb6768ced44d) • National Park Service North Carolina and Virginia Underground Railway Designations (http://www. Houghton Mifflin Current Events. Vol.msu. Sayers.  "The American archivist" (http:/ / books.pdf) • History of Great Dismal Swamp (http://www.newyorkcanals.edu/programs/royster/explorenc/ northeast/northeast/dismalswamp. Retrieved February 6.eduplace. Associated Press. 11. 2012. 2011).virginiatouristsguide.
• “‘Running Servants and All Others’: The Diverse and Elusive Maroons of the Great Dismal Swamp. 1. com/ books?id=LkNmAAAAMAAJ). 2012. 1811–1896 Dred. II" (http:/ / docsouth. html).edu/cgi-bin/logbrowse. . cfm?arskey=27426). New York Historical Society.html) • Slavery in America – quotes from Strother's description of Osman (http://www. .org/scripts/ sia/gallery. Virginia" (http:/ / emuseum.Great Dismal Swamp maroons
 "Escaped Slave Settlements in the Great Dismal Swamp" (http:/ / hmcurrentevents. International Journal of Historical Anthropology.  Breen. Retrieved February 6. 2012. In Two Volumes.  "Partnerships: Great Dismal Swamp Archaeology Field School" (http:/ / www. Vol. . . gov/ FWSJournal/ regmap.php/2011/ 07/05/remembering-the-runaways-in-the-great-dismal-swamp/) • Professor Daniel Sayers biography (http://www. March 2007 (available on JSTOR)
• Discussion of Dismal Swamp maroons (http://h-net.  "What were a few Routes Along the Underground Railroad?" (http:/ / www.com/2011/aug/19/nation/ la-na-great-dismal-swamp-fire-20110820)
. Retrieved March 10. Retrieved February 4. . Fish and Wildlife Service. . edu/ nc/ stowe2/ summary. 2012. October 2011. asp) • Weekly Reader: The Great Dismal Swamp: A Path to Freedom (http://www.  "Harriet Beecher Stowe.nyhistory.jstor. • " The Political Economy of Exile in the Great Dismal Swamp (http://www. 1619–1861” (2007 Federal Jamestown 400th Conference: Voices From Within the Veil).org/pss/20853121)" by Daniel O. Retrieved January 30. No. University of North Carolina. 2012. com/ escaped-slave-settlements-in-the-great-dismal-swamp/ ). google.unc. html). nyhistory. Daily Herald.com/History.unc.latimes.
jpg Source: http://en.org/w/index. PumpkinSky. Ched.wikipedia.org/w/index. Grapple X.0/
.jpg Source: http://en.php?title=File:GreatDismalSwampMaroon1856. Mgiganteus1.php?oldid=495147511 Contributors: Alarbus. Gerda Arendt. Kafka Liz. Graham87. R'n'B. Eregli bob.wikipedia.wikipedia.jpg License: Public Domain Contributors: PumpkinSky
Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.Article Sources and Contributors
Article Sources and Contributors
Great Dismal Swamp maroons Source: http://en. Ser Amantio di Nicolao. Licenses and Contributors
File:Great Dismal Swamp-Fugitive Slaves. Jimp.0 Unported //creativecommons. Yngvadottir. Yomangani
Image Sources. Darwinbish.php?title=File:Great_Dismal_Swamp-Fugitive_Slaves. Ishtar456. Montanabw. Ceoil. RafikiSykes. WikHead.org/licenses/by-sa/3.jpg License: Public Domain Contributors: David Edward Cronin File:GreatDismalSwampMaroon1856.org/w/index. OohBunnies!.