Queen Nzinga Of Central Africa Dies At 80 Years Old

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This Day In History: December 17th

Queen Njinga Mbande also known as Queen Nzinga, was a dominant ruler and negotiator who halted the Portuguese from enslaving her people in the Kingdom of Ndongo and Matamba. She was born in 1583 and her father was Ngola Kiluanji Kia Samba who led the area that is present-day Angola. The same year Queen Nzinga was born, her father began fighting against the Portuguese who were raiding the territory and attempting to conquer the land which they believed possessed silver mines. 

Her brother dethroned their father and murdered Nzinga’s child which prompted her and her husband to flee to Matamba. His rule was unpopular amongst the people and in 1623, he asked Nzinga to return to help him negotiate a treaty with the Portuguese. 

Queen Nzinga was a skilled and capable negotiator. She was determined to display the same power as the Portuguese which proved to be successful. During her first negotiations, the Portuguese Governor only allowed for one chair in the room as an act of establishing dominance. However, his plan backfired when Queen Nzinga signaled to one of her assistants to kneel and create a human chair.

She succeeded in the negotiation with the governor and restored her brother back to power, with the Portuguese agreeing to limit the trade of enslaved people. However, power was soon transferred when Nzinga became Queen following the death of her brother. She became ruler of the kingdom of Ndongo and the Portuguese named her the governor of Luanda. She also converted to Christianity during this time and opened the land to Christian missionaries for political gain. Queen Nzinga also found allies and was able to conquer and rule Matamba. 

The Portuguese and Queen Nzinga went through several periods of negotiation, but by the end of the 1640s, she was forced to accept a Portuguese appointed ruler and the de facto rule of the Portuguese in Ndongo. Despite the new ruler, she retained her dominance in Matamba and helped to maintain Matamba’s independence from the Portuguese. 

In 1657, Queen Nzinga signed a peace treaty with the colonial power and worked on rebuilding her kingdom until her death on  December 17, 1663. Queen Nzinga’s efforts helped to slow the trade of enslaved people in central Africa and provided a blueprint for Angolan independence.

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