Jamaica’s Gleaner has published details on the correspondence between Transport Minister Lester Mike Henry and Oxford University Press on the subject of the definition of a maroon. If our previous post left you wanting more details, here are some excerpt and a link to the Gleaner’s article, which has ALL the details.
You perhaps didn’t know about it, but there was a battle taking place over the past three months that saw a Jamaican going up against one of the largest and most respected literary institutions in the world. Guess who won.
In one corner, there was mild-mannered Transport Minister Lester Mike Henry, who, in his own right, is a highly regarded writer and publisher with a known affinity for things Jamaican. In the other corner, was a veritable Goliath of the literary world, Oxford University Press, a department of the University of Oxford in England and publishers of the well-known Oxford dictionaries.
It all started early one April morning when, while flipping through his copy of the Concise Oxford Dictionary, Henry stumbled upon the word Maroon, and the definition he saw, got his blood boiling.
A Maroon, in that edition of the Oxford Dictionary, was described simply as a person descended from a group of fugitive slaves in remote parts of Surinam and the West Indies.
“I was greatly offended and insulted by it! I know that any Jamaican would be. It’s a perfect example of the miss-education of the Negro. There was no account of the bravery of the Maroons, who defeated the English in their flight for indepen-dence,” said Henry last Thursday, still obviously upset.
“That victory was part of their war for freedom that forced the British to sign the treaty of 1738, that conceded to the Maroons, an independent area,” said Henry.
So, as he spent some time going over the definition, reading it over and over, he found himself getting increasingly upset. He decided to do something about it.
Henry gathered himself and penned a short, and somewhat curt letter to the editor of the Oxford Dictionary, in England.
“I must protest most vigorously this entry in your dictionary,” the letter read.
“(I) refer you to the British Archives to see if the British would describe the Maroons in this way. For my part, I now draw attention to this entry to the Ministry of Education and all the schools in Jamaica as I seek their input, in what I consider to be an insult to my country’s history and the Maroons,” Henry continued.
“Indeed, it is even more an insult to my country, considering that Nanny of the Maroons is one of our national heroes. But such is the miss-education of the Negro, and the continued attack by the former enslavers on the minds and history of the people.”