The fugitive slave known as “Three-Fingered Jack” terrorized colonial Jamaica from 1780 until vanquished by Maroons, self-emancipated Afro-Jamaicans bound by treaty to police the island for runaways and rebels. A thief and a killer, Jack was also a freedom fighter who sabotaged the colonial machine until his grisly death at its behest. Narratives about his exploits shed light on the problems of black rebellion and solutions administered by the colonial state, creating an occasion to consider counter-narratives about its methods of divide and conquer. For more than two centuries, writers, performers, and storytellers in England, Jamaica, and the United States have “thieved" Three Fingered Jack's riveting tale, defining black agency through and against representations of his resistance.
Frances R. Botkin offers a literary and cultural history that explores the persistence of stories about this black rebel, his contributions to constructions of black masculinity in the Atlantic world, and his legacies in Jamaican and United States popular culture.