Numerous brave, strong, and heroic black female warriors have existed throughout history. There have also been numerous black female warrior tribes. Become inspired by their legendary stories of resistance, unification, and conviction. From queens to the enslaved, these women represent the history of black females today.
Queen Ndaté Yalla Mbodj was a heroine of the resistance against French colonization and Moors’s invasion.
Queen Ndate was born in Dagana, 1810. Her father was King Amar Fatim Borso Mbodj, and her mother was Queen Linguere Awo Fatim Yamar Khuri Yaye Mboge. The queen’s title was “Ba-Lingeer,” meaning “queen lost or princess” in Serer language or Linguere (pronounced Linger or Linguère), which means “queen” in Wolof language.
Queen Ndate Yalla was crowned Queen of Waalo in 1846. One year after her sister, Queen Ndjeumbeut MBoddj, died. Her reign was marked by a battle to assert her kingdom’s independence against French invaders.
She led the women’s army and resisted the colonial head of administration, Louis Faidherbe, who later became the governor of Saint-Louis (now Ndar) when she became pregnant to one of her soldiers while on military service in 1837 (although legend has it that he was the son raised from when she had gone into exile in 1835) fifty years before Dakar’s declaration as an independent colony for France.
For about ten years, Ndate Yalla maintained peace in her kingdom. But conflict did not stop multiplying with the influx of French settlers. Land conflicts arose because of land appropriation of her people’s land by French planters, which began ill effects on trade in St. Louis.
Queen Ndate Yalla Mbodj, along with other African heroines, played an essential role in the struggle for African liberation. Queen Ndati Yalla Mbodj has been immortalized by oral historians known as griots who tell of her bravery. She was a symbol of female empowerment during her life and remains so today.
Queen Nzinga Mbande was a famous politician and military strategist who ruled the Mbundu people in Angola.
Nzinga became queen in 1626 when her brother committed suicide. Before his death, he asked Nzinga to meet with the Portuguese and negotiate peace.
Nzinga acted as an adept negotiator. She formed a strategic alliance with Portugal in 1622 to stop attacks from rival African aggressors and the slave trade. In the alliance, Nzinga agreed to enslave Portugal in exchange for weapons and prevention of slave raids on the Mbundu people.
Nzinga tells the Portuguese that they had broken their side of the deal, yet they were unwilling to give up. In 1627, she formed a temporary alliance with the Dutch, an enemy to the Portuguese, and led an army against them.
Nzinga led her people in their fight against the Portuguese for decades, fighting in battles and never giving up. The Portuguese tried multiple times to capture Nzinga but never succeeded. She died at 80 years old of natural causes.
Nehanda Nyakasikana, or Charwe, was born among the Shona people, one of Zimbabwe’s major ethnic groups. She is believed to have become a Nehanda medium during the 1880s, a title given to her by the military campaign “Chimurenga.” British settlers invaded Mashonaland and imposed heavy taxations upon the people inhabiting the area in 1890. Charwe was urging them to rebel against such rules, and she prevailed as a leader.
The Chimurenga depended on African religion and African spiritual leadership to successfully defeat the Federation, which was invading from all sides. Particularly Nehanda Charwe, who organized the people of Matabeleland and western Mashonaland to fend off the invaders.
At first, the rebellions appeared successful, but once supplies dwindled, Charwe and her allies were defeated. To avoid more blood between the two factions, she gave herself up to capture. Her trial began in 1898 when she was found guilty of killing a European Commissioner. This man was particularly notorious for his brutal and barbaric manner. Additionally, she was guilty of killing another man, a police officer.
Charwe was sentenced to hang the following month. She was given the opportunity to convert to Christianity but staunchly refused her captors. Before her hanging, she proclaimed that her body would rise up to lead the second struggle against the British, ending in victory.
Charwe became a legend in her resistance struggle. She inspires nationalist movements within current-day Zimbabwe to this day.
Queen Nanny was the leader of the Jamaican Maroons, a community of Africans who fought for their freedom against the British in the 1700s.
Nanny was kidnapped from Ghana and enslaved as a child. She escaped and joined formerly enslaved people elsewhere. At the age of 17, she became the head of a village with military leadership and skills. Over time, she trained her people to fight in wars alongside her.
Nanny was a leader of the Maroons in the 18th century. She led her people through wars with the British settlers and became known as someone who represented unity and strength for her people after the events.
Known as “Granny Nanny,” she was a major figure in the First Maroon War. The songs and legends about her are widespread, but there is also documentation of certain facts about her.
Both legends and documents describe her as an exceptional leader. She was short and wiry but drew great strength. Her influence over the Maroons was so powerful that it seemed supernatural and connected to her power of obeah.
In 1739, Nanny refused to sign a treaty with the British because she knew it meant being subjugated.
Many legends exist about Nanny among the Maroons. All of them describe her as the most outstanding leader. She led the people with courage and inspired them to live a life of independence and freedom, which was their rightful inheritance.
In March of 1982, the Right Excellent Nanny of the Maroons was conferred the National Hero award, according to Government Bulletin 23 in the Jamaican Gazette.
Yaa Asantewaa was named Queen Mother by her exiled brother. Yaa Asantewaa was the person responsible for the “Golden Stool.” This was during the powerful Ashanti Confederacy (Asanteman), which was a federation of tribal families that were in power from as early as 1701 to 1896.
Nana Yaa Asantewaa led the Ashanti in rebellion against British colonialism and became the figurehead of resistance in West Africa. Women like her and notable male leaders such as Kwame Nkrumah and Samori Ture contributed to the close bond between Ghanaian culture and polity.
King Prempeh I was exiled from his native land by British colonial governor Frederick Hodgson and the Ashanti people were told to turn in their Golden Stool to illustrate British power. Alternatively, the Asantahene was crowned with a ceremonial crowning that involved a Golden Stool.
Queen Mother Yaa Asantewaa rose to challenge those who had surrendered to British demands. A brave war general, Queen Mother Nana Yaa Asantewaa, led a march against the British but was captured herself. Nevertheless, she inspired her people to fight for independence and their king to return home.
Today, Ghana is a modern nation where most people speak Twi. Twi is an Akan language group that closely resembled Fante. Ghana achieved independence from the British in 1957. In 2000, there was a museum that was based on Queen Mother Nana Yaa Asantewaa to honor her achievements.
From 40 B.C. until 10 B.C, Queen Amanirenas ruled the Kingdom of Kush in present-day Sudan. When the Roman Emporer, Caesar Augustus, conquered next-door Egypt in 30 B.C. and made plans to next move into her kingdom, Queen Amanirenas had other plans. She called her army into battle and took arms against the would-be invaders.
She was unable to fight side-by-side with her husband, as he had died during an earlier battle — leaving only her and her son, the Prince Akhinad to continue fighting to protect the land.
Amanirenas, the Queen of Kush, launched a surprise attack. In the end, she successfully captured three Roman cities. But it wasn’t long before Rome retaliated and invaded Kush, destroying the Kingdom’s capital and enslaving thousands. Peace negotiations began after five years of fighting.
She was known as an archer, which was not uncommon among the Nubian people of the time. However, Amanirenas was the most famous of these and was known as the conqueress of the Romans.
Queen Amanirenas was a resister of imperial conquest. She is remembered as the Nubian queen who conquered Rome, and she never gave away large swathes of territory or paid taxes to the Romans.
Queen Amina ruled the Zazzau Kingdom, Zahra in present-day Nigeria, at the end of the sixteenth century. She was known as a ruthless ‘Warrior Queen.’ She was born around 1533, to a wealthy trading family who specialized in metals, salt, and horses. During her reign, she would command an army totaling 20,000 strong.
That’s not to say that they weren’t royal — her father was the preceding monarch. But when he died, her brother ascended the throne. She, however, took the route of greatest resistance, training to become a fearful warrior. She managed to earn the respect of her counterparts in Zazzau’s male-dominated military, as her brother expanded the territory.
She earned the title of ‘leading warrior’ in her reigning brother’s cavalry, inflicting chaos upon their enemies. Her military skills were both notorious and renowned within her brother’s kingdom.
When her brother died in 1576, Amina ascended the throne as Zazzau’s queen. Three months after her coronation, she instigated a long, 34-year war against Zazzau’s neighbors to expand the kingdom further.
She expanded the Zazzau’s territory during her reign larger than ever before. This expansion helped ensure safe passage for traders throughout the Saharan region. The Zazzau people were skilled metalworkers, and Amina is credited with utilizing this talent and introducing metal battle armor.
These legendary female warriors were the inspiration for the female warriors of Wakanda in the Marvel movie Black Panther.
The Dahomey Amazons were frontline soldiers that existed from 1625 to 1894. The 17 survivors in one of their last battles against the French in 1892 were only a small number of the total Amazon army, which had consisted of 434 women.
The current Queen Hangbe claimed that all traces of her ancestor’s reign were erased by Agaja, who believed that only men should hold the throne. In a dusty museum found inside the Royal Palaces in Abomey, the monarch’s silver scepters are shown in order of their reign. There is no sign of one belonging to Queen Hangbe, and some historians question whether she existed at all.
The exact origins of the Amazons are unknown. Some historians claim they were elephant hunters, while others believe they served as royal bodyguards. The most widely accepted theory is that they served as bodyguards to Hangbe and subsequent kings.
The Amazons were officially integrated into the Dahomey army by Ghezo in 1818. This integration was due to the shortage of manpower with European slaves taken.
The Dahomey society recognizes Amazons as official soldiers, and they’re seen as the mirror of men. This is due to their religion, Vodun which showed a duality since Mawu-Lisa was both male and female, bringing together the world. The king had authority over everything and reigned supreme.
They were nicknamed the Amazons by Europeans who visited the kingdom, after the female warriors of ancient Greek mythology.
Carlotta was an African woman, born of free but humble heritage into the Yoruba tribe, which spans borders throughout Western Africa. She was transported to Cuba against her will and enslaved in Matanzas, working on local sugar cane plantations under brutal conditions.
Sugar cane, along with molasses and rum was a quintessential commodity in the triangular trade era. Carlota was worked under particularly harsh conditions, which inspired her to plot a rebellion with another enslaved woman named Firmina. In other parts of the world, such as Haiti, the British Empire, and Latin America, slavery was being abolished. Word of times changing may have encouraged Carlota and her friend to act more defiantly.
Unfortunately, her friend, Firmina, was captured while handing out rebellious material to slaves on other plantations and was beaten mercilessly, but she bravely never gave up the information on Carlota.
Meanwhile, Carlota continued to plot the rebellion. She developed a secret method of communication using music to deliver coded music to the other slaves. In this manner, she was able to organize and lead the rebellion to come.
Carlota was very determined and intelligent. In 1843, she led an organized rebellion at the Triumvarato sugar plantation. Her partner Fermina was locked up after the plans for their rebellion were discovered. Carlota and her fellow warriors then freed Fermina and dozens of others, waging one year in a loud battle against slave plantations. Carlota was captured and executed by landowners afterward.
Tarenorerer of the Emu Bay in northern Tasmania was an indigenous Australian rebel leader of the Tommeginne people. She was abducted as a teen and sold to white sealers on Bass Strait Islands. They renamed her Walyer.
She became proficient in English studied how guns work and how to use them. In 1828, Tarenorerer returned to her country, where she gathered warriors from many bands to fight against the invaders. Training them in using guns, she ordered them to strike at the luta tawin, which means “white men,” when they found them unprotected.
According to local sealers, Tarenorerer would stand on a hill to organize the attacks, taunt the settlers and dare them to come.
She was eventually captured again by sealers but managed to conceal her identity for several years until it was finally discovered who she really was. At which point, she was taken to Gun Carriage Island, where she was imprisoned. She later died of influenza, still in prison.
While there are many additional black female warriors and stories of black female warrior tribes scattered through history, this selection takes you across time and around the world to see how these women stood up for themselves, their families, and their people.