Resistance to the institution of slavery was very widespread, persistent, and to be found in almost every aspect of the Enslaved life. All groups of Enslaved Africans , regardless of sex, or work had an anti-slavery mentality. Women were among leaders of resistance movements. Women’s leadership roles, however, have been minimized in writings about slave resistance
Here are a selection of Caribbean rebellions led by women, cutlass in hand and bravery in heart; this is how they did it:
Mary, Agnes & Matilda
In 1878, one of the most violent rebellions took place in the Danish Caribbean islands. Locally known as the Fireburn rebellion, this labor riot sent a loud and clear message to plantation owners.
These three rebel women, Queen Mary, Queen Agnes and Queen Matilda, along with a whole host of other enslaved Africans traveled around to 50 plantations and burnt down houses, sugar mills, fields and stores. It is said that over half the city of Frederiksted burned down.
To this day Queen Mary, Queen Agnes and Queen Matilda are considered heroines. The local population erected statues of the three women and one of the main roads on St. Croix is named Queen Mary Highway.
Flore Bois Gaillard
Flore Bois Gaillard is known to have been a biracial enslaved St. Lucian woman who was detrimental in the Battle of Rabot.
Flore Bois Gaillard, growing tired of the harshness of both the French and immediately after the English who occupied the land, escaped the plantation in 1793. After running away and taking refuge in the woods, she came across other escaped Africans who had formed an army. The army planned a rebellion to rid the country of the British for good and declare St. Lucia a free country.
Flore Bois Gaillard rose in the ranks and quickly became a military leader, her planned counter-attack at Soufriere being pivotal in the success of wiping out many British slave owners, burning down plantations and freeing several slaves who later joined the army. Some say that Flore killed her former master and burned down his plantation.
While there is not a huge amount of knowledge about the details of Flore Bois Gaillard, she remains as a significant national treasure in St. Lucian history. The natural monument made to honour her, Piton Flore, is named after this St. Lucian iconic figure.
Marie Sainte Dédée Bazile
Marie Sainte Dédée Bazile was absolutely key in part of the Haitian Revolution, and in the legacies of honouring it.
Often callously considered to be a ‘mad woman’, Marie Sainte Dédée Bazile’s story is saturated with traumatic incidents which may have contributed to mental illness. Being a survivor of rape by her slave master as well as witnessing the death of her family, this Haitian revolutionary carried a lot with her into the rebellion.
Marie Sainte Dédée Bazile, who was also known as Défilée, Défilée-La-Folle, escaped her slave master to join the fight for Haiti’s liberation.
Marie Sainte Dédée Bazile is most known for retrieving, transporting and burying the mutilated body of Jean-Jacques Dessalines, the first Governor-General and later Emperor of an independent Haiti, in a cemetery in Port-au-Prince. This defiant act allowed for his body to be respectfully put to rest.
Carlota Lucumí (La Negra Carlota) was brought to Cuba as an African woman of Yoruba origin. Today Carlota is known for the rebellions in the Triunvirato plantation in Matanzas, Cuba during 1843 -1844.
As conditions intensified on the plantations in Cuba, many revolts happened between 1830 to the late 1840s. In 1843, Lucumí and another enslaved woman, Firmina, began to plot a rebellion alongside the other enslaved on the plantation.
The plot was uncovered by the slave masters and Fermina was beaten and imprisoned. Carlota Lucumí continued with the rebellion, coordinating with her talking drum to lead a raid on November 3 1843 to free Firmina and the other enslaved people. Under Carlota’s genius and bravery, they burned down the torture house, killed the overseer’s daughter, Maria de Regla, and then forced Julian Luis Alfonso, the owner of the Triumvirato plantation, to flee for good.
In the ongoing two-day rebellion, Carlota and her army destroyed five sugar plantations. They fought until the very end and on the last day that the last plantation was destroyed, Lucumí and Firmina were both captured and executed. Carlota’s body was tied to a horse and dragged until she died.
Her memory is still honoured today amidst the ruins of the sugar mills of Matanzas, Cuba.
Nanny of the Maroons
Queen Nanny of the Maroons is a key figure in Jamaican liberation history and is widely known across the Caribbean. Details of her origins cannot be confirmed entirely, but it is said that she was born in Ghana, to the Ashanti tribe before setting up her rebel base in the surrounding mountains of Portland, Jamaica.
Queen Nanny established her own Maroon community and engaged in Guerrilla warfare tactics and was an outstanding military leader.
Throughout Nanny’s developing Maroon community and various successful raids and riots, the British tried but could not capture her or her highly-trained army.
Details of Nanny’s existence, while wildly accepted to be true, have become mystified over time. Due to the extent of her success in her battles against the British, many believed that she practiced magic to aid her and her armies and was an Obeah woman.
The British tried and failed multiple times throughout 1728 to 1734 to capture the Maroons. In 1739, Cudjoe, another Maroon leader, signed a treaty with the British which granted the Maroons land to settle on, New Nanny Town.
Nanny’s legacy is strong and she remains as a symbol of resistance and power in Jamaica until today.
African Women hold an incredible legacy on their back, a vibrant history of queen, pharaohs, leaders and thinkers that, still today manifest their feminine energy into our current society through those who are bold enough to lift their voices in a patriarchal society, always diminishing their power and make them seek refuge in fear and forced empathy, accepting every form of violence from this system.
Today, we are not only highlighting those great figures that we all know and we all respect but it’s a short path that we’ll draw on the sand with a small piece of wood that will lead to understand many aspect and roles African women played or faced to be who they are today.
Hatshepsut – fifth pharaoh of the Eighteenth Dynasty of Egypt
Hatshepsut: The pharaoh is a woman
Actually she wasn’t the first woman to reign on men, but she was the most iconic to do so. Hatshepsut came on the throne with knowledge on economy, international diplomacy and for 20 years she managed to enhance Egypt and build wealth over her kingdom. She was a visionary and participated in major technical advanced and discovery, by financing and leading the first expedition to the Land of Punt (Region of Somalia) who was believed to be an ancient kingdom, where the first Egyptians are coming from. As a matter of fact she paved the way for strong, magnificent buildings that many pharaohs claim as theirs, transplanted foreign trees into her royal yard that a generation benefited from.
When we talk about beauty, African women have a strong resume. From Nefertiti that overshadowed every women in history for her beauty that was registered so many times through time to Makeda: Queen of Sheba that brang another sense to it with her internal beauty (wisdom, compassion, respect, boldness, fearlessness and self-esteem) a strong value in Africa.
The black of their skin was described as gold, their hair were crown, worn to express their creativity and versatility, and they knew many secrets of beauty that they passed down from mother to daughter. African woman are naturally beautiful and smart, praised for their strong curves holding themselves and others on their back. Beauty wasn’t something to seek for when they already knew they were, accepting every aspect of their bodies, African women were their own standard.
Furthermore, some accessories like fragrance, wigs, cowries, and make up were already used in the past in a sense of beauty enhancer. External beauty may seem false and give a wrong impression of someone’s true nature for instance many distinctive signs of beauty were established in different tribes like necklaces and jewelries by Zulu people, stripes on faces by the Maasai in Kenya, and face scarification by Yoruba people in Nigeria.
Abla Pokou TO
Women held an important power in many chieftaincies and tribes in Africa. Matriarchy was a system that gave African women power positions in politics, social privilege and control. One of the most common tribe that is known for this societal organization is the Akan people. Their society is matrilineal, meaning that all inheritance matters are based on the mother. Female were leaders, they weren’t only this stereotypical etiquette on their reproductive capacity, they allowed greatness on their entire lineage.
Ablah Pokou was an Akan queen that sacrificed her baby to save her kingdom and allowed them to reach another land for safety. Her people were named Baoulé, word coming from (Baouli: The child has died) a homage to her lost child. On top of that she is venerated and represents courage, woman leadership, determination, spreading the message of this legend that survived every ages to inspire more women.
Art was very important in African societies, it described our culture, stories, deities through paintings, sculptures and more. African women were making potteries, baskets, sewing, designing textiles etc.…
Although they were participating in creating art pieces, most of the time the artworks, masks and sculpted figures represented their bodies, their nudity and were even used for rituals, fertility purpose. Women were both creators and subject, and female beauty was portrayed and glorified by both men and women.
Between lust and a cursed heritage
This huge legacy was coveted and African women will never be the same. The colonial era brought violence, gender discrimination, women were losing their power in African societies becoming only objects. African women are now highly disrespected, the one that were painted as goddess are now playing not a second but third role. Marriage was important but now that’s the only title that they can pretend to in this new one hundred percent patriarchal society.The black of their skin was described as dirty, ugly and their hair were cut, burned, hidden to make them believe something they were not. Broken families, burned traditions, lost empathy, bashed blood, bleached skin, hair cut, tragedy.
Saartje Baartman was one of the many victims, this curvy african woman was sexualized, abused, raped, and lived a depressed life before dying sadly at a young age. This marked not the start but years of humiliation over african women that started losing their yesteryear strong aspect. However, they were still perceived as strong but in a negative way. For this reason, they are not allowed to cry, to be vulnerable, they have to compromise no matter what happen to their dignity and self-worth.
After centuries of oppression, trying to step back, the world was always an enemy to their fulfillment like a curse, casted by history that generations will face until they find a counter spell.
We should all be Feminist!
Nowadays, we see another era of women claiming for equity and equality. They are tired of male supremacy and male privilege, the “a woman is supposed to stay at home” narrative is for the past, education for young African girls, redefine our culture and the aspect that doesn’t allow them to evolve, tell women to not accept everything formed against them in this world. LETS ALL BE FEMINIST.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche, a Nigerian writer is now a feminist icon in Africa and beyond. She wants equality, she wants dignity and respect for every women in this world. After sending powerful messages in her TED talk, she exhorts women and men to join this fight for generations to uncast the curse. She is a great example of leadership, greatness, elegance and intelligence, that’s an African Women.
Now we have Ellen Johnson Sirleaf the first woman elected president in Africa in 2005, who maintained Liberia and imposed herself in this so called man dominated field, that’s an African Woman, which created controversy because of her gender.
She was certainly guided by Hatshepsut’s spirit her great ancestor aura who proved years ago, she was more than her gender, don’t limit myself when I can run this world too. Black women will always find a way to reach their final form, our first mothers coming from the so called motherland, breaking codes as they will set their reign to another era allowing a future generation of African women to first breathe in this world without holding one nostril.
Virginity is, by its definition, << the state of a person who has never engaged in sexual intercourse. >> Socially, however, virginity is perceived differently, according to many beliefs and understandings that prove to be false.