Njinga of Angola: Africa’s Warrior Queen


Monday, April 17, 2017, 7:00pm


Harvard Book Store 1256 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138

Harvard Book Store welcomes Boston University's Professor of History and African American Studies Linda M. Heywood for a discussion of her book, Njinga of Angola: Africa’s Warrior Queen. This event is co-sponsored by the Hutchins Center for African & African American Research at Harvard University.

Though largely unknown in the Western world, the seventeenth-century African queen Njinga was one of the most multifaceted rulers in history, a woman who rivaled Elizabeth I and Catherine the Great in political cunning and military prowess. Linda Heywood offers the first full-length study in English of Queen Njinga’s long life and political influence, revealing how this Cleopatra of central Africa skillfully navigated—and ultimately transcended—the ruthless, male-dominated power struggles of her time.
In 1626, after being deposed by the Portuguese, she transformed herself into a prolific slave trader and ferocious military leader, waging wars against the Portuguese colonizers and their African allies. Surviving multiple attempts to kill her, Njinga conquered the neighboring state of Matamba and ruled as queen of Ndongo-Matamba. At the height of her reign in the 1640s Njinga ruled almost one-quarter of modern-day northern Angola. Toward the end of her life, weary of war, she made peace with Portugal and converted to Christianity, though her devotion to the new faith was questioned.
Who was Queen Njinga? There is no simple answer. In a world where women were subjugated by men, she repeatedly outmaneuvered her male competitors and flouted gender norms, taking both male and female lovers. Today, Njinga is revered in Angola as a national heroine and honored in folk religions, and her complex legacy continues to resonate, forming a crucial part of the collective memory of the Afro-Atlantic world.


"Queen Njinga of Angola has long been among the many heroes whom black diasporians have used to construct a pantheon and a usable past. Linda Heywood gives us a different Njinga—one brimming with all the qualities that made her the stuff of legend but also full of all the interests and inclinations that made her human. A thorough, serious, and long overdue study of a fascinating ruler, Njinga of Angola is an essential addition to the study of the black Atlantic world." —Ta-Nehisi Coates, author of Between the World and Me

"Njinga’s time has come. Heywood tells the fascinating story of arguably the greatest queen in sub-Saharan African history, who surely deserves a place in the pantheon of revolutionary world leaders, male and female alike." —Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

"Heywood gives us a biography well worthy of its complex subject: an insightful portrait of the person, smoothly narrated, with an eye for telling details, and solidly historical in its thoughtful probing of the currents in the African and Portuguese worlds Njinga skillfully navigated for more than four decades. This welcome book is a good read and a great story." —Joseph C. Miller, author of The Problem of Slavery as History

"Heywood offers a complex and layered narrative that significantly enhances our knowledge about Njinga, the memorable ruler who defied colonial power in seventeenth-century central Africa. In addition to being a tour de force of historical analysis that will mesmerize scholars, this powerful and moving book will delight Njinga’s many admirers, for the African queen occupies a vital place both in the national identity of Angola and in the memory of people of African descent in the Americas." —Roquinaldo Ferreira, author of Cross-Cultural Exchange in the Atlantic World

ORGANIZER(S): Harvard University Press 
EVENT WEBSITE: http://www.hup.harvard.edu/catalog.php?isbn=9780674971820