This is Queen Nzingha, better known as Queen Ann Nzingha. She was born in Matamba, West Africa in 1583 at the time the Portuguese were establishing slave trade settlements on the African coast, invading her native territory. Beginning as a young woman, Queen Nzingha and her army of fierce Amazon Warriors (in which she well trained herself) fought against Portuguese slave traders and won many battles. Unfortunately, she lost as time wore on since spears were no match for firearms.
In the late 16th century, the English and the French threatened the Portuguese monopoly on slave capture and trading along the West African coast, forcing the Portuguese to seek new areas of exploitation. In 1580, they established a trade partnership with King Alphonso I of the Kongo Kingdom and then turned their attention to Angola, south of the Kongo. In 1617, the Portuguese built a fort and settlement at Luanda, invading Ndongo territory. In 1622, King Mbande sent his sister Queen Nzingha to a meeting with the Portugese Governor Joao Corria de Sousa to end hostilities and make peace with the Mbundus. According to Blackpast.org:
Nzingha was aware of her diplomatically awkward position. She knew of events in the Kongo which had led to Portuguese domination of the nominally independent nation. She also recognized, however, that to refuse to trade with the Portuguese would remove a potential ally and the major source of guns for her own state.
Queen Nzingha sought to establish equality with representative of the royal crown.Since there was no seating prepared for Queen Nzingha, she motioned to one of her assistants who fell to her hands and knees and served as a chair for Queen Nzingha for the remainder of the meeting. Queen Nzingha preceeded to make negotiations with the Portuguese, converted to Christianity, and adopted the name Dona Anna de Sousa. She was also baptized in the governor wife’s honor who then became her godmother. Lastly, Queen Nzingha convinced a reluctant King Mbande to convert his people to Christianity. It is not sure whether Queen Nzingha did all of this because of personal or political reasons.
Queen Nzingha became the Queen of Mbudu in 1626 after her brother committed suicide because of the rise of Portuguese demands for slave concessions, however, Queen Nzingha refused to allow the Portuguese to control her country. In 1627, after the formation of alliances with former rival states, she led her army against the Portuguese which led to a thirty year war. She exploited European rivals by forming a alliance with the Dutch who conquered Luanda in 1621. With the Dutch help she defeated the Portuguese in 1647. The following year the Dutch were defeated by the Portuguese and withdrew from central Africa. Queen Nzingha then resumed her battle against the Portuguese. Her amazons were fierce warriors who struck fear in the hearts of the Portuguese.The Portuguese finally defeated her and made her an offer to keep her on the throne if she would pay annual tribute. Queen Nzingha wasn’t having that so she fled, gathered another army, and repelled invaders for the next eighteen years, refusing any overtures.
Queen Nzingha continued to lead her amazons in battle well into her 80s, still displaying the skill and agility as she had in her youth. Queen Nzingha continued to wage guerrilla warfare on the Portuguese which would continue long after her death resulting in the ultimately victorious 20th century armed resistance which led to Angola’s independence from Portugal in 1975.
The Portuguese continued their quest to capture and kill Queen Nzingha, but they was ultimately unsuccessful. Queen Ann Nzingha passed away in 1663 at the age of 81. After her death Portugal gained complete power of Angola. Englishman John Ogilby said of Queen Ann Nzingha:
She is a cunning and prudent virago so much addicted to the use of arms that she hardly uses other exercise, and withal so generously valiant that she never hurt a Portuguese after quarter was given and commanded all her slaves and soldiers the like.
I salute this AMAZING HER-story making sista!
Rogers, J.A. (1946). World’s Great Men of Color, Vol. I. MacMillan Publishing Co.
“Queen Nzingha.” Black Past. Web 28. 2015. Retrieved from http://www.blackpast.org/gah/queen-nzinga-1583-1663