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  • Three Brown Negroes, in Surinam.

    BRAY Théodore (1818 - 1887)

  • Sheet of French Guiana, n ° 33 of August 15, 1829, title page.

  • Map of French Guiana by d'Anville.

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Title: Three Brown Negroes, in Surinam.

Author : BRAY Théodore (1818 - 1887)

Date shown:

Dimensions: Height 29 - Width 40

Technique and other indications: Watercolor drawing

Storage location: Aquitaine Museum website

Contact copyright: © Mairie Bordeaux - Photo B. Fontanelsite web

Picture reference: M. C .: L 428

Three Brown Negroes, in Surinam.

© Bordeaux City Hall - Photo B. Fontanel

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Title: Sheet of French Guiana, n ° 33 of August 15, 1829, title page.

Author :

Creation date : 1829

Date shown: August 15, 1829

Dimensions: Height 0 - Width 0

Storage location: Overseas Archives Center website

Contact copyright: © Center des Archives d'Outre-Mer

Picture reference: CAOM. Bib. AOM

Sheet of French Guiana, n ° 33 of August 15, 1829, title page.

© Center des Archives d'Outre-Mer

To close

Title: Map of French Guiana by d'Anville.

Author :

Creation date : 1829

Date shown: 1829

Dimensions: Height 38 - Width 50

Storage location: Historic Center of the National Archives website

Contact copyright: © Historic Center of the National Archives - Photography workshop

Map of French Guiana by d'Anville.

© Historic Center of the National Archives - Photography workshop

Publication date: April 2007

Historical context

Marronnage, resistance to slavery

Escape from areas controlled by the masters is facilitated in Guyana by the geography which makes dwellings, vast farms where slave labor is concentrated, with the then infinite universe of the Amazon rainforest.

The slaves, under permanent constraint in the dwellings, are shared between the large workshop which brings together men and women employed in the toughest jobs (clearing, earthmoving, planting) and small workshop where pregnant women, the elderly and children are gathered for lighter tasks. All details of their existence are governed by the "Workshop police" which also authorizes the teacher to practice the right of correction to punish offenses and breaches. Of carbets, shelters of branches and leaves, inspired by Amerindian techniques, as well as giblets, slash-and-burn crops adapted to the forest environment, represent the framework of their reconstituted life, where rigorous discipline is also one of the conditions for the survival of the chestnut bands.

If the forest character of Guyana favors small marooning for various purposes, of which hunting and fishing are one of the possible reasons, the town of Cayenne where the "Daytime niggers" find their work to be hired for a small but substantial salary, is a second point of attraction.

Image Analysis

Théodore Bray, Three Brown Negroes, in Surinam

In the heart of the Guyanese forest, three men - known as "maroons" or runaway slaves - are resting, chatting around a fire that we imagine intended to keep insects and snakes at bay. A felled tree and a basic hut constitute the rapid arrangements for this temporary stopover. A slash saber stuck in the ground is the essential tool in their escape, which they have taken care to take with them. The planter Théodore Bray, settled in Dutch Guiana around 1840, draws this maroon scene, with the naturalness of things seen, without romantic connotations. One of the chestnuts smokes a clay pipe, an object characteristic of the material world of slaves on plantations, as revealed by archeology. Perhaps born in Africa or from a second generation who grew up on American plantations, their means of expression are one of the Creole languages ​​resulting from the original linguistic variety of the slaves and the owners who employ them. . The region of Guyanas alone has thus given rise to several languages: Creole with a French lexical basis, Anglo-Portuguese and Anglo-Dutch.

The forest offers a place to hide, to reconstruct forms of personal and social identity, outside of the slave world. Under the constant threat of being discovered, the chestnuts are however faced with the difficulties of ensuring their subsistence, in a hostile environment where tools are lacking.

Weekly report of marronnage

Short runaways are handled with pragmatism. Considered inevitable, tolerated as long as it does not exceed a few days, it is however the subject of declarations (departure, return or arrest) to the administration. The publication of "marronnage notices" in the local weekly press allows permanent monitoring of the phenomenon and places the management of each house at the discretion of the entire colonial society. The French Guiana Sheet indicates as precisely as possible the origin of each slave, his age and size, in old and new units of measure where the millimeter is then in favor.

There followed a call for the constitution of the local militia which, under the orders of the district commanders, went in search of information on the fugitives. The discovery of huts or traces of crops provokes the organization of beatings led by armed detachments: organized marronnage indeed remains, for the homeowner, the strongest symbol of the overthrow of the slavery order.

Faced with the mass of servile workers (86% of the population on average in Guyana), the microcosm of the planters fear with anguish any laxity of its members in the police in the workshops, like any excess likely to provoke a revolt. In fact, and in the interests of the owners themselves, the extreme punishments provided for by the Black Code (mutilation, death on the third offense) remain rarely applied.

Map of French Guiana

Beyond a coastal zone which then extends for more than eight hundred kilometers, Guyana appears as an unknown country, "all covered with wood", still populated by various tribes or villages of Amerindians. The European occupation therefore developed in the river island of Cayenne, then in the estuaries of Approuague (where the "Fort des Flamands" testifies to the struggles between colonial powers) and of Oyapock, defended by the Fort. Saint Louis. In the middle of the 18th century, this movement spread, still along the coast, north-west of Cayenne. The impenetrable forest and the zones of rapids or "jumps" that block the rivers define a "Guyana of the interior" which escapes any form of colonial intervention. It also attracts, as a possible place of refuge, maroons from Surinam where large-scale rebellions have led the government to conclude treaties recognizing certain strongly constituted groups as free people (1760 for the Njuka, 1762 for the Saramaka). Knowledge of this immense territory was only based until 1729, the date of d'Anville's map, on accounts of the explorations carried out by the Jesuits. It benefited from the creation of a geographical service in 1763, within the local administration of the Navy, then from the first trips led by scientists (the geographer Mentelle in 1779, the naturalist Leblond, from 1786 to 1789). However, the demarcation of the southern border of Guyana will not be effectively carried out on the ground until 1956-1957.



Faced with the brutality and dehumanization of the slave system, the petty marronnage represents a space of freedom that the slaves themselves create; it manifests their resistance on a daily basis.

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  • colonial history
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Regards sur les Antilles: Marcel Chatillon Collection Catalog of the Musée d'Aquitaine, Bordeaux, September 23, 1999 - January 16, 2000, Paris, RMN- Bordeaux, Musée d'Aquitaine, 1999 Serge MAM LAM FOUCK French Guyana in the time of slavery, of gold and francization (1802-1946) Petit Bourg (Guadeloupe), Ibis rouge, 1999 Jean MOOMOU The world of the Maroons of Maroni in Guyana (1772-1860) The birth of a people, the BoniPetit Bourg ( Guadeloupe), Ibis rouge, 2004 .Richard PRICE and Sally PRICELes MarronsChateauneuf-le-Rouge, Vents Outre, 2003.Richard PRICELes early times, the conception of the history of Marrons Saramaka Paris, Seuil, 1994. Guide to the sources of the slave trade, slavery and their abolition, Direction des Archives de France, La documentation française, Paris, 2007.

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