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Scholar makes interactive map showing how slaves fought back

X MARKS THE SPOT: The interactive map

SLAVERY IS a word rarely followed by stories of how black men and women defied the odds to fight for their freedom. Instead, focus usually dwells on accounts of the way in which its black victims were sold, captured and beaten.

Stories of strength and courage are rarely told when talking about slavery, according to Dr Vincent Brown, who has created a new interactive map in a bid to expel the myth that our slave ancestors were meek, docile and content.

A professor of History and African and African American Studies at Harvard, Brown narrates one of the most famous Jamaican rebellions which started in 1760 and was led by a man known as Tacky.

The 1760 Great African Rebellion in Jamaica lasted for over 18 months in which the rebels killed 60 whites and destroyed thousands of pounds worth of property. More than 500 black men and women were killed or committed suicide in the battle.

Working in collaboration with Axis Maps, the interactive map, entitled Slave Revolt in Jamaica, 1760-1761, A Cartographic Narrative, unveils new insights into the political history of slavery. It dispels the often-perceived notion that black uprisings were little more than chaotic riots and instead presents visually how scholars can discern strategic, and carefully planned military campaigns in patterns of movement.

Brown said: “An emerging alliance between historians and mapmakers promises to enlighten public perceptions of black insurrection.

“As with more recent disturbances, people at the time debated whether the slave insurrection in Jamaica in 1760-61 was a spontaneous eruption or a carefully planned affair.”

The professor added: “Historians still debate the question, their task made more difficult by the lack of written records produced by the insurgents. Cartographic evidence developed in collaboration with Axis Maps shows that the rebellion was in fact a well-planned affair that posed a genuine strategic threat, not an indiscriminate outburst.”

Speaking of the map David Heyman, managing director of Axis Maps, said he hopes people will understand the story of the uprising visually as well as through text.

He said: “We wanted to build the simplest and most elegant map possible in order to provide users – expert historians and members of the public alike – a high quality and detailed narrative of the uprising, allowing them to understand the story visually as well as through text.

“Interactive cartography provides a completely new method through which to interpret existing demographic and event data into a more rounded historical narrative, revealing surprising and unprecedented patterns that were previously hidden.”

To explore the map and learn more you can view it by visiting: http://revolt.axismaps.com

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