Majoe

Natural history museums and the collections within them are tied to the transatlantic slave trade which


means that there were many African slaves that contributed to the collection of specimens or offered natural knowledge that went undocumented and unacknowledged. One of these contributions and natural knowledge comes from an enslaved woman by the name of Majoe. Not much is known about Majoe, but Henry Barham, a natural historian, wrote about a plant (Picramnia antidesma) discovered by Majoe for the use of treating several diseases. This plant became to be known as Majoe bitters or Macary bitters after her, which is one of the few instances in which enslaved peoples were acknowledged for their natural knowledge and specimen collections. Today, specimens of Majoe bitters are housed in natural history museum collections (an example from the Natural History Museum in London is shown below), and some places, like Jamaica, still commonly use Majoe bitters for home remedies.


Sources:

  1. https://www.nhm.ac.uk/content/dam/nhmwww/discover/slavery-natural-world/chapter-10-attitude-and-acknowledgement.pdf

  2. https://www.my-island-jamaica.com/support-files/medicinal-plants-of-jamaica.pdf