They Survived In This Hidden Fortress After Fleeing To Freedom

savannah river
Zain Murdock
August 21, 2023

Savannah, Georgia’s enslavement-era history often brings to mind the Weeping Time of 1859, one of the biggest sales of enslaved people in U.S. history.

Decades before is another tale - when the Bear Creek Maroons not only escaped to create their own community but fought to preserve it by any means necessary.

In the 1780s, Maroons built a secret fortress near the creek. Reaching it from shore required wading through water and swarms of hungry mosquitoes. 

Historian Sylviane A. Diouf described how some Maroons raised their children entirely in dark, underground dens.

Building a secret community also required strong defense. Maroons carried weapons, constructed a wall, and had guards patrol it. 

But on April 21, 1787, after a group traveled to a nearby plantation to rescue other enslaved people, minutemen not only found and shot them but eventually calculated the fortress’ location.

That May, they forced their way through the wall. 

To keep as many in their community alive as possible, the Maroons made the heartbreaking decision to flee. Minutemen set the fortress afire.

From the Maroons forging new communities, Underground Railroad travelers dreaming of the North, and those who endured the Weeping Time, our ancestors fought to keep their loved ones together. 

And their devotion to community is what enables us to imagine and build a liberated future today.