Fearless Black Female Warriors Throughout History

Harriet Tubman was an African-American abolitionist, humanitarian, and Union spy during the American Civil War. Born into slavery, Tubman escaped to Philadelphia in 1849, then immediately returned to Maryland to rescue her family.

She subsequently made more than 19 missions to rescue more than 300 slaves with the help of the network of antislavery activists and safe houses known as the Underground Railroad. One of her famous quotes: “I freed a thousand slaves I could have freed a thousand more if only they knew they were slaves.”

She later helped recruit men for John Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry October 16-18, 1859, to free enslaved Blacks.

 In June 1863, Tubman became the first woman to lead an armed expedition in the Civil War. She guided the Combahee River Raid, which liberated more than 700 enslaved Blacks in South Carolina: the largest liberation of enslaved Black people in American history.

The Harriet Tubman Home preserves the legacy of “The Moses of Her People” in the place where she lived and died in freedom. The site is located on 26 acres of land in Auburn, New York, and is owned and operated by the AME Zion Church. It includes four buildings, two of which were used by Harriet Tubman.

Amanirenas (died c. 10 B.C.)

Amanirenas (also spelled Amanirena) was one of the greatest kandakes, or queen mothers, who ruled over the Meroitic Kingdom of Kush in northeast Africa. She reigned over the kingdom between c. 40 B.C.-10 B.C.  When Roman emperor Augustus levied a tax on the Kushites in 24 B.C., Amanirenas and her son, Akinidad,  led an army of 30,000 men to sack the Roman fort in the Egyptian city of Aswan.They also destroyed the statues of Caesar in Elephantine.

Under orders from Augustus, the Roman general Petronius retaliated, but met strong resistance from Amanirenas and her troops. After over three years of harsh fighting, the two parties agreed to negotiate a peace treaty. The Romans agreed to return their army to Egypt, withdraw their fort, give the land back to the Kushites and rescind the tax.

The brave warrior queen, Amanirenas is remembered for her loyal combat, side-by-side, with her own soldiers. She was blinded in one eye after she was wounded by a Roman. However, the full extent of the Roman humiliation has yet to be disclosed since the Kushite account of the war, written in the Meroïtic script, has not been fully decoded.

Nyabingi Priestesses Muhumusa (died 1945) and Kaigirwa (unknown)

Muhumusa and Kaigirwa were feared leaders of the East African Nyabingi priestesses group that was influential in Rwanda and Uganda from 1850 to 1950. In 1911 Muhumusa proclaimed “she would drive out the Europeans” and “that the bullets of the Wazungu would turn to water against her.”

She organized armed resistance against German colonialists and was eventually detained by the British in Kampala, Uganda, from 1913 to her death in 1945. She became the first in a line of rebel priestesses fighting colonial domination in the name of Nyabingi, and even after being imprisoned she inspired a vast popular following. The British passed its 1912 Witchcraft Act in direct response to the political effectiveness of this spiritually based resistance movement.

In August 1917, the “Nyabinga” Kaigirwa followed in Muhumusa’s footsteps, and engineered the Nyakishenyi revolt, with unanimous public support. British officials placed a high price on her head, but no one would claim it. After the British attacked the Congo camp of Kaigirwa in January 1919, killing most of the men, Kaigirwa and the main body of fighters managed to evade the army and escape.