Takyi was born into the Fante ethnic group (also part of the Akan) in the Gold Coast. He was a high-ranking chieftain, spoke fluent English, and admitted to selling enemies from other Akan states to be enslaved by the British. At some point, his people lost a war with another Akan state and he was himself sold into slavery under the British.
While he was enslaved in Jamaica, Takyi rose to the position of overseer on his plantation. It was from this position of relative autonomy that he planned his rebellion, with the aid of many other Akan rebels.
Takyi’s plan was to defeat the British and all slave masters and create Jamaica as a separate and independent black colony.
Known as Tacky’s War or the 1760 Easter Rebellion of Port Maria, the rebellion took place a year later to become the second largest and most shocking rebellion 30 years after Breffu led the Akwamus in the 1733 St John slave insurrection. The massive Akwamu revolt is considered one of the longest lasting rebellion recorded in the history of the Americas.
In May 1760, Takyi and his allies killed their masters, occupied their plantations (named Frontier and Trinity), and seized the munitions stores at Fort Haldane. They took over two more plantations (Heywood Hall and Esher) that same day. By the next morning, hundreds of enslaved people joined the cause. When the growing group of rebels stopped to celebrate their success, a slave from Esher plantation fled to the closest authorities for help.
According to oral history, Takyi and his slaves were strengthened and protected by the Obeah spiritual leaders. As they planned their next move, an Obeahman spread a powder over the bodies of the other rebels and told them that it would make it impossible for the British to hurt them.
Notified by the enslaved man from Esher, dozens of mounted militia confronted the rebels. They were accompanied by maroon contingents who were (because of the treaties with Britain) treaty-bound to aid in quelling the rebellion.
The Obeahman boasted that he and the rebels were untouchable. The British responded by seizing the Obeahman, executing him in front of the rebels and hanging his body by his own mask in site of the rebel camp. This brutality convinced most of the rebels to return to their plantations. But Takyi and two dozen other rebels renewed their attacks.
During a session of guerilla fighting in the forest, a maroon marksman called Davy killed Takyi and brought his head to the British as evidence of his death. Takyi’s role was finished but several other bands of rebels renewed the effort in wake of Takyi’s death.
It took the British two months to subdue Takyi’s Rebellion fully. And the consequences were grave. Sixty whites and 400 enslaved blacks were killed. Takyi’s allies were captured and either burned alive or hung in cages at the Kingston parade where they remained until they died of dehydration or starvation.
A waterfall close to the cave where Takyi and his men planned the revolt was named Tacky Falls and is currently open to visitors. A school has also been named after the great enslaved Ghanaian chief who led the rebellion.