Black History: Special Delivery!!

Queen Amina

Queen Amina Statue – National Arts Theater in Lagos, Nigeria

Queen Amina of Zaria (1533 – 1610), commonly known as the Hausa “warrior queen” is considered one of the greatest military leaders of the 16th century. She was often referred to as being, “‘a woman as capable as a man.” Born into a wealthy family, she gained military skill by training with soldiers from the Zazzau military. She was the oldest daughter of Queen Bakwa Turunku. Her leadership abilities were discovered early by her grandfather, who allowed her to accompany him to state meetings.

Also aware of her abilities, her mother Queen Bakwa vowed to raise her to become a queen. Born in Zaria, (what is now the northwest region of Nigeria) she lived about 200 years before the British colonial rule in the 19th century. She became queen in approximately 1576, following the 10-year rule of her brother. Queen Amina was highly respected by the Zazzau military of pre-colonial Nigeria. Soon after becoming queen she led her first military battle. Her military campaigns would continue, largely uninterrupted throughout her 34-year reign. Queen Amina lead an army of 20,000 men in expanding Zazzau territory (Hausa Kingdom). Her military conquests amassed great riches.

The knowledge of the Zazzau people in metal-working allowed Queen Amina to provide metal armor, including helmets and chain mail for her soldiers. This provided a great advantage to her soldiers during military combat. She is also acknowledged as the architect of building walled fortifications around cities that she conquered; known as Ganuar Amina (Amina’s Walls). At the time, walls were a sign of prestige (military and political). Afraid of losing power, Queen Amina never married. According to legend, she instead took a temporary husband from her military conquests; spending one night with them and then having them executed in the morning.

There are a few legends regarding how Queen Amina died. One legend is that she took her own life when a man escaped after spending the night with her because she was afraid that her actions would be revealed. While another legend suggests that she died in battle. Scholars do not agree on the exact time of her birth or death. However, her military acumen is without question. A statue was erected in her honor at the National Arts Theater in Lagos Nigeria. Several educational institutions have also been named in her honor. Her life was also the model for the television series, Xena: Warrior Princess which aired from 1995 – 2001.