Ethnic Origins of Jamaican Runaway Slaves


Jamaican Runaway Slaves 1718-1795


Number of slaves 4,150
Creole (i.e. born in the Americas) 545
African specified ethnically/regionally 1,218


“Eboe” (Nigeria) 196 – 16% of African specified
“Congo” (Congo) 183 – 15% of African specified
“Coromantee” (Ghana) 166 – 14% of African specified

Jamaican Runaway Slaves 1810-1817


Number of slaves 3,278
Creole (i.e. born in the Americas) 1,411
African specified ethnically/regionally 1,739


“Eboe” (Nigeria) 335 – 19% of African specified
“Mungola” (DRC, Congo Brazzaville) 327 – 19% of African specified
“Congo” (Congo/Angola) 301 – 17% of African specified

Above summaries are based on the HUGELY interesting data to be found in Jamaican Runaway Slave advertisements published in the 18th and 19th century! They have been collected by Dr. Douglas Chambers (see this link for more details). Besides the ethnic/regional origins being mentioned you can actually find out on many more fascinating details about these advertised runaway slaves if you read the texts closely. In the remaining part of this blogpost I will provide a full overview of the slave ethnicities to be found in the advertisements (or at least the ones I was able to pick up on). Plus I will highlight some intriguing clues about African ethnicity in Jamaica found within these short but often very informative newspaper advertisements. But first let me emphasize the following:


  • By no means is this data presented to be seen as fully representative of the ancestral make up of present day Jamaicans! It’s more complex than that 😉
  • Even though they make for a pretty large sample, the ads are mostly dating from the periods 1775-1795 & 1810-1817! The early period of 1718-1754 is only covered by 10 pages (out of 330+195). Plus there are no advertisements for the period 1755-1774.
  • It is still very informative to see what kind of ethnic groups were present in the time periods covered but the names being used are often hinting more to a broader regional origin than specific ethnicities!
  • The numbers mentioned in the summaries above and the full overview below merely represent the number of times the highlighted ethnic/regional term (“..”) appears when doing a simple search within the PDF-files of both datasets. There could be some double-counting for slaves referenced by two terms as well as under-counting because of single references being used for several slaves at the same time. Obviously this is an imperfect method to derive the exact number of slaves described by each term which would require a full contextual reading of all the advertisements. But for the purpose of this blog post it will suffice 😉

African Origins

These are all the ethnic/regional references to the African origins of the runaway slaves I could personally pick up on from the advertisements. It is quite possible I did not catch them all. Plus I may have made some miscalculations or typo’s. This is easily verifiable though by searching the PDF-files yourself. I first mention the number of “hits” in the PDF-file for 1718-1795 followed by the one for 1810-1817.  Also the terms are ranked from most frequently mentioned to least. The interpretation of these so-called “nations” can be problematic (see also “Ethnic identities of African-born slaves: valid or imposed?“). But this should still be very valuable for correlating with documented regional slave trade patterns for Jamaica.


      • “Eboe” (=Igbo and related southeast Nigerians): 196+335 times mentioned
      • “Congo” (=blanket term for people shipped from Congo Brazzaville & western DRC & northern Angola, mostly Bakongo but not exclusively): 183+301 times mentioned
      • “Mungola” (=possibly people from the Upper Congo river area and not Angolans; similar terms used in Brazil: Monjolo, Mandongo in Louisiana and Cuba, and Mondongue in St. Domingue): 59+327 times mentioned
      • “Mundingo” (=people from Senegambia+Guinea Conakry+Sierra Leone, usually but not always Mandé speakers/Mandingo) : 170+193 times mentioned
      • “Moco” (=non-Igbo’s from southeast Nigeria/western Cameroon, mostly Efik and Ijaw?): 162+184 times mentioned
      • “Coromantee” (=blanket term for people shipped from Ghana, would be mostly Akan but not exclusively) : 166+165 times mentioned
      • “Chamba” (=blanket term for people from the interior area of Ghana/Togo/Benin, would be mostly Gur speakers but not exclusively) : 99+69 times mentioned
      • “Nago” (=Yoruba’s from Benin/western Nigeria) : 58+51 times mentioned
      • “Papaw”/”Popo” (=blanket term for people shipped from Benin, could be mostly Fon but not exclusively) : 33+47 times mentioned
      • “Canga” (=blanket term for people shipped from Liberia & southern Sierra Leone) : 37+8 times mentioned
      • “Wakee”/’Wawee” (=possibly same as “Wankyi” from Berbice census or “Wawu”, “Watje” by Oldendorp? referring to an ethnic group from Ghana?) : 15+28 times mentioned
      • “Angola” (=most likely referring to northern Angola but perhaps also Benguela in southern Angola) : 7+25 times mentioned
      • “Portuguese Congo” (=most likely referring to northern Angola + Cabinda) : 15+6 times mentioned
      • “Succo” (=possibly Mande speaking group from northern Ghana/Ivory Coast, see this blogpost for detailed discussion) :8+5 times mentioned
      • “Fantee” (=Akan subgroup from Ghana) : 6+0 times mentioned
      • “Fuller” (=Fula/Fulani from Upper Guinea): 1+1 times mentioned
      • “Wanga” (=?): 1+0 times mentioned
      • “Callabar” (=people shipped from southeast Nigeria) : 1+0 times mentioned
      • “Sosu country” (=Sosu from Guinea Conakry) :1+0 times mentioned
      • “Mayow country” (=possibly Maio island, Cape Verde??): 1+0 times mentioned
      • “Malagascar” (=Malagassy) : 1+0 times mentioned (advertisement from 1718)

***EDIT 22-10-2015***

I recently got hold of these additional overviews. For continued discussion, comparing with Jamaican DNA findings and linguistics, see also:

Source of these charts (available online and recommended reading): “The Links of a Legacy: Figuring the Slave Trade to Jamaica.” Chambers, D. In Annie Paul, ed., Caribbean Culture: Soundings on Kamau Brathwaite. Kingston, Jamaica: University of the West Indies Press, 2007, pp.287-312.


(click to enlarge)

Chambers (2007) - Major Diasporic Ethnies among Jamaican Runaways, 1718-1817

Source: “The Links of a Legacy: Figuring the Slave Trade to Jamaica.” Chambers, D. In Annie Paul, ed., Caribbean Culture: Soundings on Kamau Brathwaite. Kingston, Jamaica: University of the West Indies Press, 2007, pp.287-312.


(click to enlarge)

Chambers (2007) - Major Diasporic Ethnies by imputed Coastal Provenances, 1718-1817

Source: “The Links of a Legacy: Figuring the Slave Trade to Jamaica.” Chambers, D. In Annie Paul, ed., Caribbean Culture: Soundings on Kamau Brathwaite. Kingston, Jamaica: University of the West Indies Press, 2007, pp.287-312.


As already seen from the summaries the most frequently mentioned ethnic groups are the “Igbo” and the “Congo”. These groups also increase in number when comparing the two time periods 1718-1795 & 1810-1817. This finding corresponds very well with what we know about the English slave trade patterns of the late 1700’s and early 1800’s. During this period the Bight of Biafra and Central Africa overwhelmingly became the primary sources of slaves brought to the English West Indies (see this chart). This stands in sharp contrast with earlier periods when the Bight of Benin and especially the Gold Coast were main slave suppliers. The rather prominent mentioning of the “Moco” aside from the “Eboe” also underlines the importance of the Bight of Biafra in both time periods.

It is interesting to see that the number of “Coromantee” from Ghana remains stagnant in later time periods unlike the “Igbo” and “Congo”. Hinting that there was no expansion of their importation into Jamaica. It should be noted again that the period of 1755-1774 is not covered by these datasets of advertisements. However this would be the period when the “Coromantee” presence would presumably be peaking. Possibly the locally born “Creole” slaves or the racially mixed ones mentioned in the advertisements had a disproportionate share of Gold Coast origins instead. It is also interesting that besides the “Coromantee” other groups are mentioned as well as being possibly from the Gold Coast area or interior. Confirming the diversity of people being brought in from Ghana. These groups being the “Chamba”, the “Wakee”, the “Succo” as well as a few isolated mentions of the “Fantee”.

A  third place in overall numbers goes to the “Mungola”, a surprising specification of Central African ethnicity beyond “Congo”. They were not really heavily present in the early period. Only appearing strongly in between 1810-1817. It is unclear therefore how important they might be for Jamaican’s ancestral origins during the whole slave trade period. Also it is uncertain to which exact region/ethnicity reference is being made of. The term “Mungola” seems rather similar to “Angola”, which also shows up in the advertisements with some frequency but to a much lesser degree. It should be remembered that the English used to have a different geographical interpretation of Angola than the Portuguese. Referring more so to the area north of the Congo river (see also this blog post). But from the advertisements themselves it seems a distinction was still being made between “Angola” and “Mungola”. Below screenshot taken from the same page:




In Hall 2005 (p.47) it is stated:

“Several ethnicities from West Central Africa recorded in significant numbers were not listed simply as Kongo or Angolan; they were, instead, listed as Mungola in Jamaica, Monjolo in Brazil, Mandongo in Louisiana and Cuba, and Mondongue in St. Domingue.”

Possibly these Jamaican “Mungola” could be equated therefore with the Monjolo mentioned in Brazilian sources who are themselves being connected to the Tio kingdom in Congo Brazzaville, upstream the Congo river.


Brazilian slaves taken from “Voyage Pittoresque dans le Bresil”. (Debret, 1834)

The presence of the socalled “Mundingo” or  Mandingo is also quite noticeable and somewhat contrasting with the slave trade records for Jamaica which report a rather low % of slave exports from Senegambia. Below follow two useful quotes on how the term “Mandingo country” was interpreted back then. I suppose many of these  “Mundingo” runaway slaves might not have been strictly Senegambian but could also have been Mande speakers from Guinea Conakry or even Sierra Leone, captives from the Fula wars.

“Not more than seventy years ago, a small number of Mahommedans established themselves in a country about forty miles to the northward of Sierra Leone, called from them the Mandingo country.” source

This region often was referred to in European reports as “Mandingo Country,” although the settlers included families of Susu, Sarakuli, Maninka Moro, Jakhanké, and other Mandé ethnic stock.” source

The “Nago” or Yoruba from the Bight of Benin are also present among the runaway slaves but in much decreased number when compared with the “Eboe” and “Moco” from the Bight of Biafra. The same goes for the “Popo” from Benin compared with the “Coromantee” from Ghana. As was to be expected given known slave trade patterns. However Jamaicans also have significant African origins dating from after the slave trade period when the so-called Liberated Africans came over as indentured labourers, many of them being “Congo’s” but also the Yoruba being heavily represented at that time (overall speaking their demographic/genetic impact may not have been that large but could still be relevant for sub-segments of the Jamaican population, see also section 2 in this blogpost).

An early single mention of a “Malagascar” refugee slave in 1718 is very much in line with documented slave voyages from Southeast Africa to Jamaica (and also to Barbados & Virginia) taking place mostly in the late 1600’s and early 1700’s. Quite possibly this runaway slave from Madagascar might have joined one of the Maroon bands composed of fellow Madagascar slaves.

“While the traffic of people from Madagascar to Jamaica was not large, The
 Trans- Atlantic Slave Trade Database does, in fact, record five seventeenth-century voyages from Magascar to Jamaica in the 1670s and 1680s, and an additional voyage in 1719. While Dallas claims that these Africans ran away from the settlementabout Lacovia, in the parish of St. Elizabeth, soon after the Planters had bought them, Orlando Patterson argues that they descended from survivors of a slave ship that wrecked off the Jamaican coast in 1670″ source
“About three other groups are mentioned in the eary literature, the Cottawood Maroons, the Madagascars, and the Kencuffees. The Cottawood Maroons joined the Kencuffees (under Cudjoe) before 1730, and they were later joined by the Madagascars.” source

American Origins

These are all the ethnic/regional references to the New World or American origins of the runaway slaves I could personally find from within the advertisements. That is anything suggestive of captives who were born already in the Americas and not on the African continent. Again it is quite possible I did not catch them all. Plus I may have made some miscalculations or typo’s. This is easily verifiable by searching the PDF-files yourself. I first mention the number of “hits” in the PDF-file for 1718-1795 followed by the one for 1810-1817.

Jamaica was notoriously used by the English as a transit station for “seasoning” African slaves and then reexporting them to other Caribbean islands or the mainland colonies in North America as well as Hispanic America. However what these below findings seem to suggest is that there was also a certain number of captives from other colonies being brought into Jamaica. Even if the outflow of slaves was much greater for Jamaica there was still some sort of circulation of Africans because of the inter-colonial trade. This complicates the interpretation of direct slave voyages as it will not cover all movement of Africans. But it is still very useful to be aware of its existence as it may also explain DNA matches between Jamaicans and other Afro-descendants in the Americas.

The rising share of locally born “Creole” slaves and also the degree of racial admixture seen among some slaves provides a significant clue for early Jamaican demographics. Despite the brutally harsh slave labour regime and a generally negative reproduction rate (unlike the USA) it seems to indicate that there were still many slave survivors who managed to have offspring and whose descendants form the basis of current-day Jamaican population. It is interesting to take these locally born Jamaican slaves into consideration as their African ethnic origins will generally reflect earlier slave trade patterns. Possibly especially from the mid 1700’s when the Gold Coast provided a larger share of captives to Jamaica than later on.

      • “Creole” (=locally born) : 545+1411 times mentioned
      • “Mulatto” (=1/2 African, 1/2 European): 119+36 times mentioned
      • “Sambo” (=3/4 African, 1/4 European): 26+29 times mentioned
      • “Quadroon” (=1/4 African, 3/4 European) : 3+13 times mentioned
      • “Maroons” (=legally recognized runaway slaves) :12+114 times mentioned
      • “Indian” (=Amerindian most likely from Central America) :2+0 times mentioned (1719 & 1779)
      • “American” (=from the USA) : 40+10 times mentioned
      • “Barbados” : 10+5 times mentioned
      • “Antigua” : 6+1 times mentioned
      • “Saint Kitts & Nevis” : 1+0 times mentioned
      • “French Negro”/”French Creole” (=from the French Caribbean) : 12+14 times mentioned
      • “Guadeloupe” : 2+0 times mentioned
      • “Santo Domingo” (=either Haiti or the Dominican Republic) : 8+6 times mentioned
      • “Hispaniola” (=either Haiti or the Dominican Republic) : 6+0 times mentioned
      • “Spanish Negro” (=most likely the Dominican Republic or Cuba) : 3+0 times mentioned
      • “Curacao” (=Dutch Antilles) : 1+12 times mentioned

Clues of African Retention

Eventhough the advertisements are generally brief and to the point they sometimes contain surprising and valuable details about the runaway slaves. Below I will just quote some of the ones that seem to indicate retention of African cultural practices in Jamaica. There are however many other interesting aspects to be discovered when browsing the advertisements. Especially about the methods of escape (sometimes also by boat/canoe!), family members helping to hide runaway slaves, the presence of freed blacks, black sailors from other colonies, “yellow” complexion among Africans, country marks etc.,etc.

 African names

” 29 June 1754 Weekly Jamaica Courant

Run away, from HENRY BARRETT 12th April instant, a Coromantee new Negro man, a well made fellow about 5 ft. 8 in. high, more or less, called DAVY but perhaps he goes now by the name of CABENAH, his country name. “


“29 June 1792 Cornwall Chronicle

Flower Hill Absconded, from Unity Hall near Chatham about the 5th of May last, a tall, thin, new Negro man of the Nago country, named ORONOKO”


“3 November 1790 Royal Gazette

St. Ann Absconded, from the Subscriber the following Negroes: MIMBA, an elderly woman, of the Chamba country


“8 August 1786 Cornwall Chronicle

St. James Run away, from Virgin Valley Estate in this parish, a new Negro of the Canga country, named QUASHIE


Some other possibly African names I came across when browsing through the advertisements:


Ethnic identity/Language

“7 November 1785 Cornwall Chronicle

St. Ann. Run away, since February last, a stout yellow good looking Negro woman, named BELINDA, about 30 years of age, marked on the right shoulder I W between. She was bought out of a Gold Coast cargo, but is not of the Coromantee, Fantee, or Ashantee country, nor does the Subscriber know her country”


“6 June 1791 Royal Gazette

Black River Ran away, a young Negro man named BRUTUS, calls himself a creole, but is supposed to be from Africa, as he talks both the Eboe and Coromantee languages very fluently”


“30 November 1779 Jamaica Mercury

Black River Run away, from the Subscriber the latter end of August last, a Negro MAN of the Succo country. He talks Coromantee”


“16 January 1784 Cornwall Chronicle

St. James Taken up, at Pleasant Valley Plantation a Negro man, of the Congo country, says his name is DOUGLAS, that he came from an island near the Guinea Coast, and was taken by the Spaniards near St. Kitts in the war.”


“1 June 1790 Royal Gazette

[…] Also absconded from same Estate, some time ago, an elderly Negro man of the Papaw country, named ROCK, alias VENTURE marked as above, sto ut made and corpulent, passes amongst the Negroes for a great obeahman,”


“12 February 1785 Cornwall Chronicle

[…] ABRAHAM, an old Eboe Negro fellow, pretends to be an ObeahMan and Doctor, and is supposed to be skulking in this neighourhood”


“1 November 1785 Cornwall Chronicle

St. James A Negro man named ROBIN was apprehended at Worcester Estate in this parish, and committed to gaol. He had been runaway many years, and is charged with practising Obeah.”


“10 May 1777 Cornwall Chronicle

Ran away, from Canaan Estate, in the parish of Westmoreland, a creole Negro man, named VULCAN, marked W H R in one, stout, 5 ft. 6 in. high, of a yellow complexion, speaks remarkable good English, and is a famous Banjaw man”


“30 August 1781 Cornwall Chronicle

Rio Bueno Run away, from the Subscriber some time ago, a tall, black, raw boned MAN of the Mundingo country, was marked on the right shoulder F B, but the mark may be worn out, is middle aged, and remarkable for two of his fore teeth in the upper row, standing out beyond the rest. He speaks pretty good English, and has been used to a wharf. Also, LUCKY, an elderly fell ow of the Congo country, of a yellowish complexion, short and thick made, and has a large scar occasioned by a sore, on one of his legs. He is well known in St. Ann, in some parts of which parish he is supposed to be harboured; he was formerly the property of, and a cook to, Mr. WHITEHORNE He is very fond of being at Negro plays as a Gumba man.”


“16 December 1793 Cornwall Chronicle

Crawle Estate, St. James Five Pounds reward for each Negro. Ran away, from this Estate last January a tall, lusty Negro man, named BOATSWAIN, of the Congo country, a mason and boiler by trade; he formerly belonged to RICHARD SAM UELLS dec., is remarkable for attending Negro plays, where he makes use of several feats of activity, for which his company is courted by the Negroes on several estates.”


“22 January 1785 Cornwall Chronicle

Spanish Town Run away, from the Subscriber about four months ago, a creole Negro boy named CHARLES, about 20 years of age, yellow complexion, and is fond of playing his negro fiddle. He formerly belonged to Mr. JACKSON, attorney at law in Spanish Town, dec. And as Mr. Jackson, brother to the deceased, who now lives at Montego Bay, has sometime ago told the Subscriber the said boy should say, He would cut his own throat sooner than return to his Master”



– Chambers, D. (2013). Jamaica (18th Century / 1718-1795 ): 740 advertisements; 4,150 runaway slaves. (link to online PDF file)
– Chambers, D. (2013. Jamaica (19th Century / 1810-1817): 133 advertisements; 3,278 runaway slaves. (link to online PDF file)
– Hall, G.M. (2005). Slavery and African Ethnicities in the Americas: Restoring the Links


11 thoughts on “Ethnic Origins of Jamaican Runaway Slaves

  1. Wakee, could possibly be the 2nd largest Akan group, the “akyem” also refered to as “Aki” by the british.


  2. ok, i stand corrected “Wakee” is a british distortion of “Wenchi” the capital of the Brong-Ahafo region of Ghana. So Wakee, refered to mainly Bono-Akan people. Coromantee were mainly Twi speakers(Ashanti, Akyem, etc), that aren’t non twi speaking Akan people like: Fantee or Wakee(Brong/Bono).


    • AFFOE – possibly Ewe from Togo as there is a Togolese footballer by the name of Affo Omorou Erassa
      APIA – a common akan surname from Appiah
      ARMAH – a royal Ga surname
      BENBOW – ?
      BESHAN – ?
      CASANDA -?
      CUFFEE – british distortion of the male Akan day name: Kofi
      JUBA – british distortion of the female Akan day name: Adwoa
      MUMBI – ?
      MUNGO -?
      MUSA – ?
      QUACO – british distortion of the male Akan day name: Kwaku
      QUANSHEE – british distortion of the female Akan name: Kwansi
      QUAOW – british distortion of the male Akan day name: Kwaw (an alternate to Yaw)
      QUASHEBA – british distortion of the female Akan day name: Akosua
      QUASHIE – british distortion of the male Akan day name: Kwasi; also a Ga surname deriving from the british distortion.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I tried looking for a possible explanation for “Wakee” or ’Wawee” in this book called “Gold Coast Diasporas: Identity, Culture, and Power” by Walter C. Rucker. Unfortunately I couldn’t find a direct reference. Which is too bad because this term (in various spelling) is actually not only used in Jamaican records but also found in documentation for other parts of the West Indies. See also this page:


        But that book does have these insightful quotes about Kwahu. I believe currently this region is mostly Akan speaking but it might be that in the 1700’s it was still more so Ewe speaking. Either way ethnic identity is fluid so it’s tricky to apply modern-day labels on how people from those days would have seen themselves.

        Still in itself a geographical reference can of course also be incredibly valuable when wanting to zoom into the possible origins of the “Wakee” or ’Wawee”!

        The languages of Guinea [= Gold Coast in his context] are very many, but even though each people in that country, live indeed scarcely 1 or one and one-half miles from each other, be they Infanties [Borbor Fante], Akanies [Assin], Akras [Ga-speaking Accra], Aquvamus [Akwamu], Kræpees [Ewe-speaking Krepi], Qvahus [Ewe-speaking Kwahu], Qvitas [Keta], Harders, Popos, Fidas [Whydah] . . . each of whom has his own special language that they use among themselves. . .”

        Through military conquest, expansion, and the related displacement of thousands of people, Anlo would have Akan, Adanme, Ga, and Ewe speakers as inhabitants by the early 1700s—an ethnolinguistic configuration that would be replicated in various locales in the Western Hemisphere by the eighteenth century. Other regions of the Ewe-speaking Volta came under Akwamu control in short order. Between 1707 and 1708, Krepi, Ho, and Kpandu were conquered and reduced to vassal states of Akwamu, followed by Kwahu in July 1710.


  3. Also saw this while reading the JamaicaRunawaySlaves-18thCentury PDF:

    NED, a Shantee [Asante], to BRUCE, 5 ft. 5 in. high. 3/27

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I am searching for my ancestor Eliza Stoney, she bore some illegitimate children of Leicester Colville Shirley including my great-great grandfather Henry Percival Shirley. Leicester had “illegitimate” children with several women too. Nothing I read mentioned the women were his slaves. I want to know if she was a slave and where her origins are from but I can’t find anything more. Henry was born 1873 and he is recorded as “complexion brown” “illegitimate race”. His wife (so my great-great grandmother) was english and just white. Now, we always thought we were spanish!! Henry and his wife lived in Panama before immigrating to the united states with my great-grandmother (actually my great-grandmother immigrated first when she ran away with an american pirate at only 16, pregnant with his child!) She did always tell people she was Panamanian. I believe much of what I have been researching is before Eliza Stony’s time, but I have learned a lot about the Jamaican slave trade and the origins of slaves. I was reading records and wondering what all the differences were between Creole, Moco, and such. I wonder which one I am? Thank you for your research and writing up. I’m amazed and horrified that I have slavery in my family history. I have a lot more to learn, I’ll be reading this site a lot more. Hopefully I will one day solve this mysterious part of my family history.

    Liked by 2 people

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s