Maroon Slaves Discussed At The Schomburg

March 13, 2014

sylviane-dioufThe little-known history of the maroons, slaves who escaped from their plantations and set up secret communities in the swamps, is coming to Harlem.

Sylviane Diouf is set to discuss her new book, “Slavery’s Exiles: The Story of the American Maroons,” Thursday at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.

Thousands of slaves created secret maroon communities, mostly in the south, after they ran away.

Staying alive was a constant struggle.

“They would raid farms and plantations to get food and other items,” said Diouf, a curator at the Schomburg Center who has won awards for her previous books about the last African slaves brought to America and Muslims who were enslaved in the Americas.

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Some were so secretive, they built homes underground.

“You have all this creativity and resourcefulness by people who wanted to be free,” Diouf said.

Her project is novel because previous research about maroons was primarily focused on slaves from Brazil, Jamaica and Panama.

“My book is specifically in the United States,” said Diouf, who spent four years researching the book. “There were a few maroons in Harlem in 17th century, and some on Long Island.”

Diouf scrounged through archives in Virginia and in the Carolinas, examining firsthand accounts in slave memoirs, newspaper reports and court records.

On Thursday, Diouf, a slave historian, will discuss the book with Eric Foner, a history professor at Columbia University.

Between the Lines: Sylviane Diouf, 515 Malcolm X Blvd. (Langston Hughes Auditorium) in Harlem, March 13, 6:30 p.m. To register, visit

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