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Beyond Black History Month: We remember real life Djangos

UNCHAINED: Jamie Foxx, star of Django Unchained

NO MATTER the month, it is becoming increasingly important to remember that historical events affect our daily lives whether we like or not.

Musician and blogger Segge Dan, inspired by the power displayed in hit movie Django Unchained, has reflected on some figures who could be termed real-life Djangos in black history:

Remember when Django Unchained came out! All that furore surrounding Quentin Tarantino from the overuse of the 'n-word' in the film to whether or not a spaghetti western was the right vehicle to talk about the horrors of slavery...

I can’t lie – I’m a big Tarantino fan and I love Westerns too. I remember watching it and feeling good when the main character, played by Jamie Foxx, took his deadly vengeance on his former captors and then rode off into the proverbial sunset.

Amidst all that carnage, I left leaving the cinema reflecting on the real-life Djangos, those men and women that took arms for real against their oppressive slave masters. I was compelled to start researching rebellions and revolts and found there were numerous incidents where they is occurred in the Americas, Caribbean and Africa. My aim was to document this in song form, through rap, so I released a song inspired by these heroes.


LEADER: Harriet Tubman (photo credit: Smithsonian)

Harriet Tubman was an amazing woman who guided over 300 slaves to freedom using the underground railroad, which was constructed in order that the slaves could travel undetected over the Mason-Dixon borderline which separated the free states of the north and those who were enslaved in the southern states.

Nat Turner was a rebel leader recently been documented in the film Birth of a Nation. He took his freedom by force! Whether it was as a result of a vision of him leading his people out of bondage or the impending sale of his wife, either way, his rebellion had a powerful impact on the society of the south.


Moving further south - Brazil, to be precise, you have the Quilombos, a settlement of runaway slaves who formed their own community and were free for almost a 100 years. Some of the well-known leaders were Zumbi and Ganga Zumba.


ISLAND LIFE: Guyana today

Staying in South America, you had Guyanese Jack Gladstone who, in 1823, incited a rebellion, known as the Demerara Revolt, of over 10,000 slaves. This rebellion was brutally crushed, but some say because of the large scale revolt it entered the debate for the abolition of slavery as it pierced the consciousness of the British parliament.


The next place we are going to was said to have inspired Jack Gladstone: Barbados. Known as Bussa’s rebellion after the protagonist himself, Bussa. It took place in 1816 and Bussa commanded over 400 freedom fighters. It was planned so thoroughly that it caught the British off-guard and, therefore, the rebels were able to burn a quarter of the sugar crop and cause intensive damage to property.


Now on to that small but great island of Jamaica and where else to start with but Nanny and the Maroons. The Maroons were so fearsome that the British colonial power were forced to negotiate a treaty with them and give them not only their freedom but land too.

Other rebellions in Jamaica were Tacky’s War and The Baptist Rebellion.

VALUE: Nanny Maroon on a Jamaican $500 bill

Tacky was a paramount chief from Ghana and led his uprising in 1760 for two months. One of the leaders of the Baptist Rebellion was Sam Sharpe, a preacher who believed slavery was wrong. His demand for a general strike led to the biggest slave revolt of Jamaica with over 50,000 people.


On towards Cuba, which was known to have frequent slave rebellions. Between 1812 and 1844 official records documented no less than twenty slave rebellions. Carlota, a female freedom fighter, was one of the leaders of such a rebellion; the Triumvirato rebellion which lasted for a year.


And now to the mother of all rebellions – the revolution of Saint Dominique (Haiti)! Led by the 'black Napoleon', Toussaint L’Overture, this rebellion started in 1781 and culminated in the revolution and independence of Haiti in 1803. Toussaint L’Overture and subsequent leader, Jacques Dessilines’ feats were more impressive as they defeated the dominant power in the world at that time, France.


Queen Nzinga, ruler of the Ndongo and Matamba people (now present–day Angola) also defeated a European power and through her lifetime ensured her people were free from enslavement. Going beyond military tactics, she used diplomacy and strategic alliances as well as agitating political tensions for the benefit of her people’s freedom.

So there they are – some real life Djangos and there are numerous more (only so many I can fit into a four-minute song) so please do comment on the ones that I did leave out.

Download your free Segge Dan tracks here.

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