Jamaica Magazine

Book Review: The Mother of Us All: A History of Queen Nanny

About the book

Queen Nanny was the leader of the Eastern or Windward Maroons of Jamaica, escaped slaves who established towns in remote parts of the island and defeated attacking armies from the British Empire from 1655 to 1739. In this exciting book, Karla Gottlieb analyzes the importance of Queen Nanny from cultural, military, historical and religious perspectives.  This book marks an attempt to integrate a key figure of New World history into her rightful place as the leader of a critical resistance movement in Jamaica in the first part of the 18th century.  The exploration of Nanny’s critical importance opens a space for heroines in this hemisphere’s military history. An ideal educational tool, this book adds the element of resistance to the teaching of the history of slavery in the Americas.  The text explores both the mythical and the factual histories of Queen Nanny, and offers a view into the Jamaican Maroon’s narration of their own unique history.


This is a small book, 119 pages, that cuts a big swath. It is about an interesting period and a lively woman of the early 18th Century, someone who never made it into any of my history books. I certainly know about her now. Gottlieb pulls together threads from many sources into one rich fabric. This is a progressive book about colonialism, racism, feminism, about military strategy, about the West-African-rooted religious traditions and the use of supernatural powers that made their way into the Maroon Culture. Gottlieb obviously has great respect for her subject — this remarkable woman, Nanny, part historical figure, part legend — who represents a courageous struggle against oppression. The book is well-researched, illustrated, and spirited reading. Some of the historical documents can be bypassed if not interested. One is impressed with its relevance to the very same “isms” that continue to torment us in the 21st century. -  By Robert E Young

This is an exceptional book on the history of Queen Nanny. This book provides a great account of Queen Nanny in Jamaica from the perspective of the Maroons, Jamaicans, and British. There are plenty of historical references sprinkled throughout the literature so that the reader can do their own research. I have a sense that she was the original “Wonder Woman” as she lived on a true “Paradise Island” and could not just stop bullets but also “catch” them. The book goes into detail about the metaphysical importance of an Obeah woman and how her power kept the strong African spirit alive within the Jamaican Maroons. It is empowering to read how such few people were able to defeat the British in so many battles. The book is brief but packed with informative information on this little known person. As a man descended from the Akan, I felt proud how the African rituals were continued in Jamaica for those that escaped human bondage. This is a great read for both men and women. – By A. AnsiI

About the author:
Karla Gottlieb is the author of The Mother of Us All: A History of Queen Nanny of the Jamaican Maroons. Gottlieb is a passionate student of Maroon history, and this book is a culmination of Gottlieb’s research on Queen Nanny and the Maroons through historical documents, trips to Jamaica, interviews with Maroon leaders, and a thorough review of published material about the Maroons. She continues to speak widely about the story of Jamaican slave resisters locally and internationally. She is currently working on a screenplay based on The Mother of Us All, and has a contract for its production as a film. She is also the co-editor of A Practical Guide for Integrating Civic Responsibility into the Curriculum, and has written three as yet unpublished novels. She lives in Miami, FL and is the Director of Community Partnerships at Dream in Green, an agency whose mission is to develop and implement programs that promote energy conservation and efficiency, environmental sustainability, and the use of renewable energy. Educated at Yale and San Francisco State Universities, she is active in Miami’s nonprofit community, and is serving a three-year term as a Yale Delegate for South Florida. She sits on several local boards, including HOPE Fair Housing, the Partnership for Philanthropic Planning, uAspire, and Accion, an organization that supports microenterprises. She can be contacted on facebook or at [email protected].

Where to buy the book
The Mother of Us All: A History of Queen Nanny, Leader of the Windward Jamaican Maroons can be bought on Amazon.com and most major bookstores.



About the author

Staff Writer