Queen Nzinga Mbande (1583-1663), sometimes referred to as Anna Nzinga, was ruler of the Ndongo and Matamba Kingdoms of the Mbundu people in what is now Angola.

As the favoured daughter of King Kiluanji of the Ndongo, Nzinga Mbande was brought up witnessing her father’s governance of the kingdom first-hand. He even took her with him when he went to war. Kiluanji made deals with the Portuguese who were expanding their slave trading operations in South West Africa, and this relationship was maintained when her brother Ngola Hari became king. However in 1617 the Portuguese Governor Correia de Sousa launched attacks against the Ndongo kingdom that captured thousands of Mbundu people.

In 1621 when the Portuguese invited the Ndongo king to take part in peace talks, he sent his sister Nzinga Mbande in his place. At her famous first meeting with De Sousa chairs were only provided for the Portuguese, and Mbande was expected to sit on the floor. Instead she commanded one of her servants to go down on all fours and act as her chair. During the negotiations Mbande walked a fine line between preventing the Portuguese from controlling the kingdom as they had done in Kongo, while keeping options open to trade for firearms to strengthen her armies. In this she was successful, although as a condition of the agreement she had to convert to Christianity and was baptised as Anna de Sousa, with the Governor becoming her Godfather.

In 1626 Mbande became Queen of the Ndongo following the death of her brother. Her reign began in peril as the Portuguese went back on their deal with her and declared war, as did other neighbouring tribes. Forced into retreat from her own lands, Mbande led her people south to the kingdom of Matamba, which she attacked, capturing Matamba’s Queen and routing her army. Mbande then installed herself as the new ruler of Matamba, from where she launched a prolonged campaign of guerrilla warfare against the Portuguese which would last for the next 30 years.

Mbande developed a legendary reputation as a warrior, although claims that that she took part in human sacrifice are likely the result of European propaganda and gossip. Accounts that she maintained a personal harem of more than 50 men are also unproven. What is known is that Mbande assembling a diverse army to oppose the Portuguese that included runaway slaves, defecting soldiers, and women. Exploiting European rivalries she made an alliance with the Dutch, which included acquiring her own personal bodyguard of 60 Dutch elite soldiers armed with rifles. Working with the Dutch, Mbande successfully defeated Portuguese armies in 1644, 1646, and 1647. However the Dutch were eventually pushed out of the region in 1648 and Mbanda was forced to carry on the fight alone. While she was never able to completely defeat them, she successfully resisted Portuguese invasion for decades.

Mbande continued personally leading her troops into battle until she was in her sixties, but the long war eventually wore both sides down. In 1657 she finally signed a peace treaty with Portugal. She then spent the rest of her life focused on rebuilding a nation which had been devastated by conflict and over-farming. She died of natural causes in 1663, aged 81. Today Nzinga Mbande is a symbol of Angolan independence, memorialised by numerous statues.


Top 10 Favorite Historical Female Figures in History: (Requested by Anonymous & Not in Order).

1. Artemisia I of Caria: She was the ruler of Helicarnassus and Cos, and was a commander of 5 ships during a naval battle (Battle of Salamis) in 480 B.C during the 2nd Persian Invasion of Greece. She was famous enough to warrant the Greeks ordering her capture which did not occur.

2. Philippa of Hainault: She was the Queen of England as consort to Edward III. She was a wise and competent Queen, serving as regent on behalf of her husband during his war campaigns. She also famously pleaded for mercy in 1347 for the lives of the Burghers of Calais and was successful.

3. Margaret I of Denmark: She ruled as regent on behalf of her son Denmark, and then later Norway and Sweden. Margaret was a successful ruler and was in power even after her son came of age. Her political maneuverings and warfare lead to the Kalmar Union in 1397 which bound the three countries together until the early 16th century.

4. Margaret of Anjou: She was the Queen of England as consort to Henry VI. With the decline of her husband, her power increase and when he was deposed she fought on behalf of him and her son, Edward of Westminster, successfully re-installing them in 1470 though they were deposed the following year. Margaret was a ruthless yet formidable foe even though in the end, she suffered defeat.

5. Isabella I of Castile: She was the Queen Regnant of Castile and Leon and consort in Aragon as the wife of Ferdinand II of Aragon. She was a successfully ruler, establishing a joint rule with her husband in which she shares the accomplishments which included the end of the Reconquista when Granada fell in 1492, and sending Christopher Columbus to the New World.

6. Caterina Sforza: A ruthless and powerful Italian Noblewoman and through marriage the Countess of Forli and the Lady of Imola. She also served as regent on behalf of her son. A passionate war woman, she even once attacked a fortress, while she was heavily pregnant. She is infamous for her defiance against Cesare Borgia at the Siege of Forli.

7. Katherine of Aragon: The Queen of England as the consort and 1st wife of Henry VIII of England. She served as regent in England in 1513 and was the first female ambassador in Europe. When her husband proceeded with trying to obtain and annulment, Katherine defied him every step of the way until the very end of her life.

8. Mary I of England: She was the only child of Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon that survived into adulthood. During her parents troubles, she sided with her mother, refusing to give up until after her mother’s death in 1536. She was the first Queen Regnant in England, and she was able to hold her position until her death. She is most widely known for restoring the Catholic Church during her reign.

9. Anna Nzinga: Anna Nzinga also known by her full name of Ana de Sousa Nzingha Mbande, was Queen of Ndongo and Matamba. Her reign was long, and during it she engaged in conflict with the Portuguese. She is known for her political acumen, and military prowess, dying at the age of 80 in 1663.

10. Catherine the Great: The 18th century Empress of Russia, who continued the modernization of Russia. She came to power after a coup in which her husband was deposed. Under her reign, the border of Russia expanded, arts, education, and literature was supported, and her reign was known as the Golden Age of Russia. 

Note: I made this post on my old account, so this is a repost, but I have changed the gifs.

The Nzinga Effect, (is) a digital platform and annual gathering to celebrate African women’s stories. Named after Nzinga Mbandi, a 17th-century queen in what is now Angola, who managed to escape the “warrior queen” box that African women leaders in history are traditionally put in. Here was a woman who was fierce, yes, but she was also multilingual, a strategist and a diplomat. Reading Nzinga’s story inspired me and I began to wonder: how would the narrative about Africa and its place in the world change if we knew more Nzingas? How would knowing our stories change us as women? We’ll soon find out – the site goes live in June.

Nzinga of Ndongo and Matamb was a 17th century queen of the Ndongo and Matamba Kingdoms of the Mbundu people in southwestern Africa.

A legendary figure in history, Nzinga was born with her umbilical cord around her neck and survived. It was a belief that these children would grow up to be proud, haughty, and headstrong individuals. It was predicted by a wise woman that Nzinga would one day become a queen. She was favored by her father and he would let her observe the workings of his kingdom and how to govern his people. He would bring her along into battle to learn war, politics, and defense first hand. 

Once she had come to power she met face-to-face with European invaders and worked tirelessly to stop the slave trades in her kingdom and was successful on some occasions. Being such a bold and no-nonsense “heathen” woman, she struck fear into the hearts of her enemies at the time. 

One of the most famous stories involves a Portuguese governor insisting she sit on a mat at his feet rather than in a chair to discuss a treaty. She would not tolerate being treated like a subordinate, so she ordered one of her servants to get down on all fours so she could sit down on his back and be eye-to-eye, thus equal to the governor. 

This story led to more stories of her owning a large male harem, watching the men fight to the death to spend the night with her, only to have the winner killed the next morning. Lastly, she supposedly indulged in cannibalism to intimidate neighboring tribes and potential enemies.

As she fell from power without an heir to her throne, she still worked to resettle former slaves and give women back the right to bear children. Though many had attempted to dethrone her, she died peacefully at age 80 and her legacy still lives on.

Today, she is remembered in Angola for her political and diplomatic acumen, great wit and intelligence, as well as her brilliant military tactics. In time, Portugal and most of Europe would come to respect her. A major street in Luanda is named after her, and a statue of her was placed in Kinaxixi on an impressive square. Angolan women are often married near the statue, especially on Thursdays and Fridays.

Queen Nzinga

I recently mentioned my love for the Stuff You Missed in History Class podcast. While listening to a new episode this week, I learned about a really amazing person, who I wanted to share with all of you.

She is a little out of our time period (born in around 1583), but she is a kick-ass female ruler.

Nzinga Mbande was born in what is now Angola, but was then Ndongo. Her father was a king and her mother was a slave.

Portugal was trying to maintain its hold on the slave trade as it jockeyed with France and England. As such, the Portuguese tried to make a deal with the Ndongo people – essentially a “give us slaves or we’ll make you slaves” sort of deal.

As an adult Nzinga, on behalf of her brother the king, met with the Portugues several times, trying to broker treaties. Nzinga and her brother’s ultimate goal was to have the Portuguese leave their kingdom.

In 1622, Nzinga met with the Portuguese envoy, to once again discuss a peace treaty. Hoping to gain the upper hand, the Portuguese governor did not provide a chair for her; he intended to humiliate her by having her sit on the floor. Nzinga realized what was going on and ordered one of her servants on her hands and knees. Nzinga then conducted business while sitting on her human chair.

The talks, however, seemed successful. Nzinga even converted to Christianity to help seal the deal, naming herself Anna (also Ana and Ann) after the governor’s wife. Unfortunately, the Portuguese did not keep their end of the deal, which was to leave and return the people they had taken as slaves.

In 1626, her brother died (my internet sources say suicide, the podcast said “mysterious circumstances”). She first took control as regent for her nephew, but ultimately took control for herself, becoming queen. In the meantime, she raised an army and conquered the kingdom of Matamba. She allied herself with the Dutch, playing them off the Portuguese. Nzinga and the Dutch defeated the Portuguese in 1647, but were then defeated the following year. She immediately got to work on a resistance movement.

She often led her warriors herself, wearing a sword around her neck. Her sisters fought as well, as did other women. On the podcast, the hosts mentioned that she kept a male harem and used the title “king,” not “queen.”

In 1657, she finally signed another treaty with the Portuguese, partly so that she could restore her kingdom. She died at age eighty in 1663.


(So, apparently, this is a thing):

Njinga- Rainha de Angola (Nzinga- Queen of Angola)

(Google translated from Portuguese):

The film tells the story of an African warrior who, for 40 years, defended the independence of the kingdoms of Ndongo and Matamba, during the seventeenth century.

To portray the story of the warrior, and international colloquium on the Queen Nzinga was conducted with the participation of UNESCO. Are part of the cast actors Erica Chissapa, Ana Santos, Silvio Nascimento, Michael Hurst, Jaime Sergio Joachim and Orlando. The screenplay is by Joana Jorge, executive produced Coreon Du Sergio and Renato Freitas Neto and conducting Sergio Graciano.

The Queen Nzinga was considered by UNESCO one of the 25 most important female figures in the history of Africa. The feature integrates the educational design CCBBs, which invites students to watch and discuss the movie.

(I dunno how I feel about this yet. Cause on one hand, judging from those bonfire scenes and the poor craftsmanship of the Angolan home structures, people didn’t actually give a crap about researching the ancient culture as much as they say they did…

On the other hand… the headdresses and jewelry, tho):

(AND mama’s wash and go and/or twist out was on POINT):

30 Days of Women in History II (no-Europeans)

Day 13. A female de-facto leader you admire (regents or otherwise)
Queen Njinga Mbande

A famous heroine of the Mbande people (Angola), she became an inspiration for other African women who fought against the slave traders.  She is still known for her confidence, wit and intelligence. Helping former slaves resettle and build a new life, she is also known for her kindness. Her death in 1663 marked the beginning of more intense slave-raiding.


I had to pay tribute to those who made my freedom.”
-Samuel Fosso

Row 1: Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr., Nat Turner, Martin Delany, Amos Wilson, Ida B. Wells

Row 2: Walter Rodney, Eusi Kwayana, Cuffy, Bussa, Sam Sharpe, Marcus Garvey, Cheikh Ahmadou Bamba

Row 3: Patrice Lumumba, Thomas Sankara, Steve Biko, Robert Sobukwe, Tavio Amorin, Cetshwayo

Row 4: Joseph Casely Hayford, Nzinga, Yaa Asantewaa, Taitu, Menelik II, Nehanda, Zumbi, Louis Delgrès

Row 5: Jose Correia Leite, Nanny, Jean-Jacques Dessalines, Elijah Muhammad, Queen Mother Moore, Harriet Tubman, Toussaint L’Ouverture, Makandal Daaga

Row 6 : La Mulâtresse Solitude, Carter G. Woodson, William Leo Hansberry, Joseph Cinqué, Chancellor Williams, Jean Price-Mars, Samory Touré

Row 7: Asa G. Hilliard III, Joshua Nkomo, Julius Nyerere, Nana Olomu, W.E.B. Du Bois, Madison, Funmilayo Kuti, Paul Bogle