In the late eighteenth century, Port Maria saw one of Jamaica’s bloodiest rebellions against slavery, an uprising that sowed the seeds for emancipation eighty years later. Led by a runaway slave known as Tacky (a European spelling of the Ghanaian name Tekyi, meaning “the great”), who was said to have been a chief of Coromantee descent, the rebellion sparked violent protests throughout the island. It aimed at a complete cull of whites and the creation of an all-black colony. The revolt began on Easter Sunday 1760, when Tacky and a small group of slaves from local estates murdered their overseers and marched to Port Maria, killing the storekeeper at Fort Haldane and seizing arms and ammunition. Five months of fighting ensued, with £100,000 worth of damage to nearby plantations. However, the thousand-strong slave army could not compete with British military force, which utilized loyal slaves and Maroons (following the 1739 treaty) in guerrilla warfare. The rebellion was savagely quashed and severe punishments meted out: Tacky was captured by Maroon marksmen and killed, his head cut off and displayed on a pole in Spanish Town; others were chained to stakes and burned alive, gibbeted or hung by irons, as an example to others contemplating sedition. It’s said, however, that in one last defiant gesture, Tacky’s sympathizers removed his body under cover of night and gave him a proper burial. After Tacky’s death, many of his followers committed suicide rather than live enslaved. Three hundred Africans died fighting, with fifty more captured and executed and three hundred transported abroad. Only sixty whites lost their lives.

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