Harcourt Fuller’s Jamaican Maroon Oral History Projects

Welcome to another edition of OHA Spotlight! This month we are featuring Dr. Harcourt Fuller and his work, which includes a documentary-film and recorded album project, and how oral history was essential to both.

Dr. Fuller’s Background: I am an Associate Professor of History in the Department of History at Georgia State University. I hold a PhD in International History from the London School of Economics (LSE). Throughout my career, I have conducted research, given invited lectures and presented conference papers in Africa, Europe, North and South America, and the Caribbean. My multidisciplinary research and teaching expertise include the socio-political, cultural and economic history of West Africa (Ghana in particular), and the African Diaspora in the Americas, from the early modern period to the present. My scholarship is particularly concerned with the history of resistance against slavery and colonialism (particularly through Marronage), as well as anti-colonial nationalism, trans-nationalism, symbolic nationalism, and the construction and contestation of national and ethno-national identity in the Africana World.

My current research endeavor is a major international, interdisciplinary, collaborative and multifaceted undertaking that interrogates the ethnogeneses, histories, cultures, identities, experiences and present-day realities of Maroon nations in the Americas. Beginning with the history and contemporary dynamics of the Jamaican Maroons, this research project includes the publication of books, journal articles, the production of documentary-films, sound recordings, digital humanities content, web and social media material, and new courses. The incorporation of oral history is an integral component of these projects, which is evident in the following documentary-film and recorded album projects that I produced.

Completed in 2015, my 1-hour documentary, Queen Nanny: Legendary Maroon Chieftainess (www.nannythemovie.com), interrogates the history and legacy of this 18th century Akan leader of the Jamaican Maroons. The documentary was filmed in Ghana, Jamaica, Canada and the United States, and screened at educational, governmental, cultural and community organizations worldwide. In 2016, the UN Department of Public Information held a series of Special World Screenings of Queen Nanny in several countries, as part of its Remember Slavery Program’s “Women and Slavery” theme. Queen Nanny also won Best Documentary at the 2016 Newark International Film Festival, a Spirit Award at the 2016 Reel Sisters of the Diaspora Film Festival, and was nominated for an Africa Movie Academy Awards (AMAA) honor at the 2016 Pan African Film Festival.

Granny Nanny Come Oh: Jamaican Maroon Kromanti and Kumina Music and Other Oral Traditions (2016) is a double-CD recorded by the Moore Town Granny Nanny Cultural Group. They completed a 3-month tour of the United States in 2016. The album features 31 tracks of live studio recordings of traditional Jamaican Maroon and Bongo-Kumina songs, drumming and other instrumentals, oral history, an Anansi story, African language retentions (including Twi and Kikongo), and other verbal arts. The album also features a 40-page color booklet with photographs and information about Maroon history and music, in addition to lyrics transcriptions and the historical background of the tracks. The Maroon Kromanti music and dance traditions of Moore Town are inscribed on the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Moore Town is also part of the Blue & John Crow Mountains UNESCO World Heritage Site in Jamaica.

The album has been reviewed by several scholars. Kenneth Bilby, author of True-Born Maroons and compiler of the Smithsonian/Folkways CD, Drums of Defiance: Music of the Maroons of Jamaica, notes:

On this very special album we hear how the younger generation of Moore Town Maroons, in conversation with their elders, are bringing new life to the unique Maroon musical traditions handed down from their foreparents. Drawing on two of the most African of Jamaica’s traditional music’s, Kromanti and Kumina, these direct descendants of the great leader and Jamaican National Hero, Nanny, show that her spirit remains very much alive among them.

The album is available as a CD or digital download on popular online music outlets such as Amazon, iTunes, and CD Baby – https://store.cdbaby.com/cd/thegrannynannyculturalgr.

Besides my academic career, I enjoy travelling to various places in the United States, as well as sojourning to countries that I have never been to before. Places where nature abounds are among my favorite, as they allow for the rejuvenation of mind, body and spirit, which is essential for all facets of one’s life. For more information about my research and other activities, my website is www.harcourtfuller.com.


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