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Queen Nzinga: Badass African Queen That Fought The Portuguese & Won

Queen Nzinga: Who Was She?

Queen Nzinga saw the white man come to Africa and take shares of her land.

Not only did they take shares of her land, but he kidnapped her people into a life of slavery overseas, in what the white man called “the new world”.

She swore to fight the Portuguese conqueror until her last breath, to prevent them from turning her people into slaves.
And so she did.

From the day she was born until she died at the age of 80, she dedicated her life to protecting her people from the slave trade and the Portuguese conquerors.

Her revolts and battles against the Portuguese were among the few successful rebellions of African cultures against European conquerors. 

Africans captured and led into slavery

In the 15th century, the European (mainly the Spanish and Portuguese) began to flock to Africa as if in a gold rush.

And indeed, the Spanish and Portuguese found a goldmine: an African population.

The enslaved Africans made them fortunes when they were captured and sold into slavery in the “new world”.

And so colonies of Spaniards and Portuguese emerged along the Western coast of Africa, colonies that became the foundation for taking over countries and slave trade transit stations.

Queen Nzinga: How Did She Become A Queen?

This was the background Nzinga was born into.

She was born to the king Ngola Kia Samba of Ndonga and Matamba in 1583.

The Portuguese called his kingdom Ngola, which later became Angola.

She was known for her intelligence from an early age, and her father took her to battles and important discussions. She quickly became one of his closest advisors.

When her father passed away and her brother took the reigns, Nzinga received an important mission: to lead her kingdom’s diplomatic mission to reach a peace settlement agreement with the Portuguese.

Joao Correia de Sousa, the head of the Portuguese delegation, wanted to humiliate the African delegation.

When Nzinga arrived at the meeting place, she found the entire Portuguese delegation sitting down, but not one single seat reserved for her or anyone else in the African delegation.

Without thinking twice, one of her maids bent down and served as a human chair for Nzinga throughout the meeting.

Nzinga on the improvised chair, looking into the eyes of the Portuguese delegation leader during negotiation. 
This picture is from a comic book about her life, published by UNESCO. You can find it here

Queen Nzinga of Ndongo and Matamba succeeded in her goal: A peace treaty was signed, which kept her people safe from the slave trade.

Unsurprisingly, the Portuguese didn’t keep their word for long.

Not long after, they attacked the kingdom again. During these battles, her brother was killed and the kingdom was passed on to Nzinga. 

She led her army and initially managed to reap successes on the battlefield and inflicted heavy losses on the Portuguese.

In 1625, however, her army was defeated, and she fled to the mountains.

Queen Nzinga: Her Alliance With The Dutch Against Portugal

It was then that she made an alliance with the Dutch, who wanted to weaken Portuguese control in Africa, to enter into the lucrative slave trade themselves. 

The battles were long and hard, and her sister, who had been serving as a spy and mediator between Nzinga in the mountains and the going-on in the kingdom, was killed during battles.

Both sides suffered great losses, and eventually, a peace treaty was signed, ensuring the independence of Ndongo and Matamba and ensuring that her people will be left out of the slave trade.

After the war ended, Nzinga helped escaped slaves settle in the kingdom and rehabilitate.

Under her management, the kingdom became an important economic axis on the west coast of Africa, a kingdom whose economic power was equal to that of the Portuguese colonies in the region.

Queen Nzinga: How & When Did She Die?

She passed away in 1663, at the age of 80.

She is still known as one of the most important queens in Africa’s history.

The rebellion she led against Portugal was one of the only successful battles led by African cultures against European conquerors. 

Today, streets and statues in her name are found throughout Angola, especially in its capital, Luanda. 

Queen Nzinga & The Slave Trade: Did Queen Nzinga Sell Slaves?

While Queen Nzinga kept her people out of the slave trade, she was involved in the enslavement of neighboring peoples.

She owned a number of plantations and used slave labor to run them. She also captured slaves during war and sold them to Europeans for profit. In addition, she sometimes traded slaves for other goods or services.

Queen Nzinga was a powerful and wealthy woman, but her involvement in the slave trade is a dark part of her legacy.

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Despite her involvement in the slave trade, Queen Nzinga was a strong opponent of the transatlantic slave trade.

She worked to end the practice of enslaving Africans and transporting them to the Americas. She also worked to free those who had already been enslaved.

Queen Nzinga was a complex figure, and her legacy is both praised and criticized. However, her efforts to end the slave trade are undeniable.

Statue of Queen Nzinga in Angola’s capital

Did Queen Nzinga Really Sit On One of Her Servants?

Queen Nzinga of Ndongo and Matamba was an African ruler who is remembered for her courage and resilience in the face of Portuguese colonial expansion.

She has become a symbol of African resistance to European colonialism, and one of her most famous acts is said to have been sitting on a servant during a meeting with Portuguese representatives.

The story goes that when Queen Nzinga met with the Portuguese governor, he refused to provide her with a chair.

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In response, she had one of her servants kneel down so that she could sit on him instead.

This act was seen as an insult to the Portuguese, but it also demonstrated Queen Nzinga’s strength and determination in the face of adversity.

Whether or not this story is true remains unclear. It has been stipulated that the story maybe part of a dehumanizing effort by the Portuguese to smear her name. Regardless, it has become part of Queen Nzinga’s legacy.

She is remembered as a powerful leader who fought against Portuguese colonization and slavery in Angola for decades.

Her legacy continues to inspire people today who are fighting for justice and equality around the world.

To Learn More About Queen Nzinga Check Out These Resources:

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2 thoughts on “Queen Nzinga: Badass African Queen That Fought The Portuguese & Won”

    1. She traded with Dutch and Portuguese traders on the African coast and as part of her peace agreement for her people, she did allow the enslavement of opposing tribes. However, it is important to keep in mind that the main enslavers and the slave trade was done by Europeans

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