Jan Conny

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Jan Conny (also Johann Kuny , Johannes Conrad , Johann Cuny , Jean Cunny , Jan Konny , John Conni and Nana Konneh depending on the German, Dutch, British, French-speaking or Ghanaian names) was a powerful West African trader, lord of a private army and ally of Brandenburg - Prussia at the time of the Kurbrandenburg colony of Groß Friedrichsburg (1683–1720) near Axim on the coast of today's Ghana in West Africa . Between 1718 and 1724 he took control of the fortress Groß Friedrichsburg, which had been abandoned by the Brandenburgers, and defended it against several massive attempts at conquest by the Dutch. The history of the defense of the fortress was falsified propagandistically in the 19th century by supporters of a German colonial commitment and used for their own purposes. Another part of Jan Conny's history of influence are the John Canoe festivals (or Junkanoo Parades ), which are still widespread in various parts of the Caribbean and West Africa, and which obviously originally referred to Jan Conny.

The historical person Jan Conny

The names listed above are European corruptions of an African name that is now unknown. Jan Conny was probably already active soon after the founding of the Groß Friedrichsburg colony as a so-called "broker", i.e. middleman and ally, of the Brandenburgers and gained increasing influence. From 1706 he ruled the region around the fortress, in 1710 he took care of the removal of the new general director of the colony, de Lange. There are reports that he attacked a Brandenburg ship and had it plundered along with rifles and cannons. He positioned these cannons behind a stone wall built by his people with gun holes based on the European model and began a siege of the fortress. Since the stone wall was still visible centuries later, this episode should be historically secured.

Despite this interim conflict, he remained active as a middleman for the Brandenburgers and, with their support, waged a two-year war against the neighboring bases of the Dutch and British. In the course of this war he attacked the neighboring British fortress Fort Metal Cross near Dixcove , which was badly damaged. In these ventures he could not only fall back on his private army (reinforced by warriors of the Ashanti and Wassaw ), but also on the support of the local population and the local brokers from Dixcove and the Dutch base Butre . Allegedly he commanded 15,000 men and defeated the British allied with Holland in the Fetu River Convention in 1712 in one battle. The Dutch and the British complained unsuccessfully to the Brandenburgers for their support for Jan Connys, as they feared for the authority of the Europeans "if the negroes can appoint and remove a general as they please".

In 1717 the Brandenburgers sold the fortress to the Dutch, withdrew from their possession and Jan Conny took control of the fortress and the region. When the Dutch wanted to take over the fortress, Jan Conny refused them entry. He is likely to have relied on the African legal opinion that the Brandenburg as well as other European possessions on the so-called Gold Coast were not for sale property, but leased territory. According to other sources, he argued that he would only accept a sale if he was told so by a man from Brandenburg.

Jan Conny had a large number of muskets and cannons at his disposal, fought back several attacks by the Dutch with blood and ran his business on his own. Allegedly he commanded an army of 20,000 men at the time. It was not until 1724, after seven years of controlling the fortress, that he gave up and withdrew from Groß Friedrichsburg.

In addition to this regional importance, Jan Conny was one of the three or four great African traders of the 18th century in West Africa. Jan Conny, John Kabes and Thomas Ewusi as well as a man known only as "Noi" commanded large private armies here and, as supraregional wholesalers, handled a significant part of the trade (and thus also the slave trade ) with the Europeans on the coast.

Impact history

Legend of the "black Prussia"

Jan Conny's refusal to hand over the Brandenburg fortress to the Dutch was used for propaganda purposes in the 19th century by supporters of German colonial engagement in Africa.

In various reports about the “last Negro king of the Elector of Brandenburg Prussia” and a poem by Fedor von Koeben , Jan Conny's occupation of the fortress Groß Friedrichsburg is interpreted as an act of “loyalty to Brandenburg”. Part of the legend is that Jan Conny left the fortress while carrying the Brandenburg flag. These reports gave the impression that there is an area on the Guinea coast where the locals are still waiting for the return of Prussian colonial rulers. The colonial engagement of the German Empire at the end of the 19th century was not without controversy, and the supporters used the legend of the Prussian Negro king as an argument. The legend persisted, and when the mid-30s of the 20th century, the Nazis also had colonial plans for Africa, they sent an expedition to the ruins Great Frederick Petersburg, where they allegedly still met people good memories of the Preserved colonial times under the Brandenburg-Prussians.

John Canoe Festival

The story of Jan Conny also became a heroic myth among the blacks of the Caribbean and the American southern states who were abducted into slavery. Even today, John Canoe, Jankanoo and Jonkonnu festivals are celebrated with masquerades, dances and parades in Jamaica and the Bahamas . The story of the "mighty King John Konny in Africa" ​​is often given as the origin of the festivities. In individual areas the legend persists that this John Conny was a slave who led a successful uprising. The opposite is historically correct, since Jan Conny has undoubtedly also become rich and powerful through the slave trade.


  • Daaku, KY (Kwame Yeboah): Trade and Politics on the Gold Coast 1600-1720; a Study of the African Reaction to European Trade . Clarendon, London 1970, ISBN 0-19-821653-X (Based on the author's thesis Trade and politics on the Gold Coast, 1640-1720, University of London.).
  • Heyden, Ulrich van der: Red eagles on Africa's coast: the Brandenburg-Prussian colony Großfriedrichsburg in West Africa . Selignow, Berlin 2001, ISBN 3-933889-04-9 .
  • Weindl, Andrea: The Kurbrandenburg in the "Atlantic System", 1650-1720 . Working papers on Latin American research, 2001, ISSN  1616-9085 ( uni-koeln.de ).
  • Malte Stamm: The Colonial Experiment. The slave trade in Brandenburg-Prussia in the transatlantic region 1680–1718. Univ.-Diss., Düsseldorf 2013
  • Emil Steurich : Johann Kuny, the first Brandenburg-Prussian Negro prince. A tale from the colonies of the Great Elector , Munich (1900)
  • Roberto Zaugg: "Grossfriedrichsburg, the first German colony in Africa? Brandenburg-Prussia, Atlantic entanglements and national memory", in John Kwadwo Osei-Tutu and Victoria Ellen Smith (eds), Shadows of Empire in West Africa. New Perspectives on European Fortifications , Palgrave Macmillan, New York 2018, pp. 33-73.

Web links