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Lemba, Sebastian (d. 1547)

Frank I. Miiller


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Sebastian Lemba was a Maroon leader in the first Spanish colony of Hispaniola, the island that from the nineteenth century on would be divided between the independent states of Haiti and Santo Domingo. With a force of approximately 150 fighters, Lemba raided nearby villages and plantations. Troubling the exploitative slavery system, the rebels faced permanent expeditions of colonial forces which in September 1547 finally captured and killed the leader. Yet the Spanish crown never managed to raze the whole community of insurgent Maroons. The long history of American maronnage began on Hispaniola. Governor Nicolas de Ovando first noted the danger of “runaways” in 1503, and at that point began sending “Maroon expeditions” into the dense vegetation of the island's hinterland to retrieve slaveowners' “property.” Lemba's predecessor, Enrique, began the indigenous wars of resistance in IS 19, gathering a large following of African slaves. Of Central African heritage, Lemba was the first insurgent leader who was not born on the island when he took over Enrique's position in 1542. His guerilla-like tactics included dispersing into smaller groups and attacking rural settlements. During his most successful raid, Lemba raided the Bahoruco valley, captured a local blacksmith, and took possession of the settlement's metals. In addition to adding to his fame, this success was of practical use, ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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