The Dora Milaje, Wakanda's fictional unit of elite female soldiers, were inspired in real life fighters. Here are 6 badass black female warriors from history that put even Black Panther to shame.
Black Panther was a cultural phenomenon for good reason. Though Hollywood still has a long way to go when it comes to fair representation of African-Americans on the big screen (yes, Black Panther is not perfect), it was a good step in the right direction for several reasons. Not only did it give us a great black superhero with a pretty interesting storyline, but it showcased black female power like few films before it could ever dream.
The Dora Milaje are a special all-female unit of elite warriors that serve as the personal bodyguards of the King of Wakanda, the fictional African nation from which king T'Challa, aka Black Panther, comes from. These female "Amazons" are ruthless and skilled fighters no one in their right mind would mess with. The best part? They were inspired by real-life soldiers. Here are 6 badass black female warriors from history that put even Black Panther to shame.
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The Dahomey Amazons, or Mino, are the main basis for the Dora Milaje, which means they were real-life badass superheroes. They were an all-female military regiment from the historical Kingdom of Dahomey, located in what is today known as the Republic of Benin. Western explorers and soldiers met these legendary African warriors, and named them after the mythical Amazons of Greek tradition due to their striking similarity: both were female forces truly to be reckoned with.
They served as the elite protectors of Dahomey's kings and queens, and were said to throw themselves into battle with uncanny resolve and ability. For their ferocity, the Mino were rightly feared at the height of Dahomey's power.
Among the animist Azna group of the Hausa, the largest ethnic group in Africa inhabiting mostly the areas of Niger and Nigeria, female chiefs and priestesses are referred to as Sarraounia. Within that tradition, the most famous one is Sarraounia Mangou, who bravely resisted the French forces when they tried to colonize the region in the 19th century.
When most other rulers had surrendered, Sarraounia Mangou mobilized her army and resources to face the French soldiers, who were keen on subduing her. In spite of having superior firepower, the French failed in their quest and eventually gave up their attempts at seizing Sarraounia Mangou's lands after she engaged in fearless guerrilla tactics.
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Nzinga Mbandi was born in the 17th century into the ruling royal family of Ndongo and Matamba Kingdoms of the Mbundu people in Angola. She initially acted as ambassador to the colonizing power of Portugal, who were ravaging the region at the time. In that capacity, she showed an incredible aptitude for handling political crises. Soon enough, however, life would give her a chance to prove her political skill well beyond diplomacy.
After her brother, the King of Ndongo and Matamba, committed suicide, she assumed power over the kingdoms. And she rose to the challenge. She is now remembered in Angola for her diplomatic ability and brilliant military tactics as she faced the Portugese, who relentlessly tried to overthrow her by placing her nephew on the throne. Through her ingenuity, she managed to secure power and keep the Portugese at bay with incredible deftness.
Yaa Asantewaa was the Queen Mother of Ejisu, a district in the Ashanti Empire—located in what is now Ghana. After she was appointed Edwesuhene, or ruler of the Ashanti forces, she led a campaign known as the War of the Golden Stool against British colonialism in 1900. This was the final war in a series of uprisings against the British, revolving around the symbolic Golden Stool, or the Ashanti Throne, which represented Asanti sovereignty.
Yaa Asantewaa managed to wage the war with great skillfulness, and helped the Ashanti maintain their de facto independence. Though technically a British colony, the empire ruled themselves with little reference to Britain thanks to her. She remains the only woman to have led the Ashanti forces.
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Around the late 1500s, there was a legendary Hausa warrior-queen of the city-state of Zazzau, in present-day Nigeria. Amina was her name. During her 34-year reign, she expanded the Zazzau territory, secured the trading passages through the Sahara, and introduced metal battle armor in the region. She is said to have built fortresses and strategic encampments, many of which remain standing to this day.
Queen Amanirenas was kandake (a title meaning "strong female ruler") of the Meroitic Kingdom of Kush. She reigned from about 40 BC to 10 BC and was celebrated throughout the centuries for leading Kushite armies against the Romans in a five-year war. She successfully took over the Roman province of Egypt in one of the war's famous battles, and reportedly lost an eye at some point of the conflict. But the Romans struck back in force.
At that point, Queen Amanirenas managed to negotiate a peace treaty with them that lasted for over three centuries, thus bravely securing the future of her people and cementing her own name in the annals of history.
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