Black history is a robust and multifaceted chapter in world history that is often watered down. History books tend to highlight whitewashed versions of African enslavement, the Civil Rights Movement, and other “safe” topics that, while important, do not fully encapsulate the experiences of the Black and African diaspora. By telling the stories that are often omitted from history, Resistance Stories from Black History for Kids sets out to show that the Black experience is not only defined by marching and boycotting, but also through rebellion and resistance.Learn about little-known facets, events, and figureheads from Black history, including Mansa Musa, Vicente Guerrero, Queen Nzingha, and many more exciting stories!

Written by Rann Miller, an expert educator highly experienced in historical analysis and diversity, Resistance Stories from Black History for Kids is the ultimate lesson in Black history that will empower and inspire the youth through its retellings of the stories often left by the wayside.

Queen Nzingha

The Queen Called King

Black History Month celebrations are great opportunities to learn about African Americans who made contributions to both the African American community and the United States as a whole. When I was in school, it was one of the only times when I would learn about Black women who led people and entire movements. Certainly, we learned about Harriet Tubman leading enslaved Black people to freedom. We also learned about Shirley Chisholm, who was the first African American woman to run for a major party’s nomination for president of the United States.

But in my learning about African women beyond the realm of the New World, those lessons were nowhere to be found. It’s not that the information wasn’t out there, but I believe that many of my teachers were unaware of African history and the history of African women serving as leaders. One such leader served in both the government and the military: the renowned warrior queen Nzingha of Matamba.

Who Was Queen Nzingha?

Nzingha was born a princess in 1583; she was the sister of King Ngoli Bbondi, the king of Ndongo (in what is now Angola).83 At the time of her birth, the Portuguese were establishing themselves on the continent of Africa, specifically West Africa, in search of gold. However, Nzingha was born ready for a confrontation. She belonged to the Jagas ethnic group—an extremely militant group that formed a human shield against the Portuguese conquest of the country and was always on the military offensive.

When Nzingha became an adult, she not only joined her army but also led a military unit of fierce women warriors, winning battle after battle. In 1622, her brother asked her to negotiate a peace treaty with the Portuguese, who wanted to take over the kingdom as part of their quest for gold. But after her brother died and she became queen of both lands in 1632, she intended to resist the Portuguese and ultimately expel them. As queen of both her and her brother’s kingdom, Nzingha began to strengthen her power. One way she did this was by forbidding her subjects to call her queen and ordering them to call her king. Another way was by dressing in men’s military clothing when leading her army into battle.

Nzingha was a very intelligent ruler. In her ambition to strengthen and expand her kingdom as the Portuguese attempted to use their influence and gain power in the area, she persuaded so-called slave soldiers under the control of the Portuguese to leave the Portuguese side and fight alongside her. This resulted in thousands of slave soldiers deserting the Portuguese and joining her forces, which created a serious security problem for the Portuguese. Aided by her alliance with the Dutch, Nzingha was able to resist the Portuguese and defend her people for decades, striking fear into the Portuguese with her woman warrior army.

Nzingha’s Decline

The turning point in the struggle against the Portuguese came when the Portuguese kidnapped Nzingha’s sister, whom she loved dearly, and beheaded her as a prisoner of war. This led to Nzingha signing a treaty with the Portuguese in 1659 to keep the peace. With this and all other treaties, however, Nzingha never paid fnancial tribute to the Portuguese, nor did she recognize them as overlords of her and her people. But at this point, she was seventy-five years old, and many of her supporters within the kingdom had either given up the fight or died.

On December 17, 1663, this great African woman died. With her death, the Portuguese occupation of the interior of southwest Africa and the massive expansion of the Portuguese slave trade began. Although her death resulted in a power vacuum that the Portuguese eventually filled, her life represents the resistance and rebellion against colonization and enslavement shown by numerous African women leaders in government and military. These strong women include businesswoman Madame Tinubu of Nigeria; Nandi, mother of the great Zulu warrior Shaka; and Kaipkire, a warrior of the Herero people of southwest Africa.

The Portuguese Arrival in Africa

Portugal wasn’t the only European power active during the age of exploration and colonization. But a treaty with the Spanish allowed the Portuguese to conquer all territories east of an imaginary line. This meant that most of South America, the Caribbean, and North America were for the Spanish (the British and French entered the picture with the fall of the Spanish in the Anglo-Spanish War between 1584 and 1604). As the British, Spanish, and French conquered the New World, the Portuguese set their sights on Africa, primarily for gold from West Africa.


For more important stories of resistance from Black history, check out Rann’s book, available now wherever books are sold!