Shaka was a great Zulu King and is the founder of the Zulu Kingdom of Southern Africa. Known for his military prowess, he is recognised as one of the most influential monarchs of the Zulu Kingdom. Shaka was reputed for his driving ambition and fierce determination. He is without doubt one of the greatest commanders to have come out of Africa.
Shabaka was a Kushite king who conquered Egypt and founded the Kushite dynasty.
Shabaka's reign is significant because he consolidated the Nubian Kingdom's control over all of Egypt from Nubia down to the Delta region. Shabaka succeeded in preserving Egypt's independence from outside foreign powers—especially the Neo-Assyrian Empire of Sargon II. Shabaka fostered religious orthodoxy and a return to ancient cultural themes.
The longtime ruler traced his lineage back to Menelik I, who was credited with being the child of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. His greatest achievement remains the decision to build the headquarters of the Organisation of African Unity, now known as the African Union, in the Ethiopian capital. Selassie is considered one of the founding fathers of the pan-African organisation.
King Mansa Musa, was the tenth Mansa of the Mali Empire, an Islamic West African state. He has been described as the wealthiest individual of the Middle Ages.
Mansa Musa (Musa I of Mali) was the ruler of the kingdom of Mali from 1312 C.E. to 1337 C.E. During his reign, Mali was one of the richest kingdoms of Africa, and Mansa Musa was among the richest individuals in the world. The ancient kingdom of Mali spread across parts of modern-day Mali, Senegal, the Gambia, Guinea, Niger, Nigeria, Chad, Mauritania, and Burkina Faso. Mansa Musa developed cities like Timbuktu and Gao into important cultural centers.
He also brought architects from the Middle East and across Africa to design new buildings for his cities. Mansa Musa turned the kingdom of Mali into a sophisticated centre of learning.
Menelik II became emperor of Ethiopia in 1889. After his army defeated Italian forces at the Battle of Adwa in 1896, Ethiopia's independence was recognized by Italy and other European countries that were colonizing Africa. During Menelik's reign, Ethiopia remained independent, thanks in part to his strategic alliances. Success in battle and Ethiopia's independence also made Menelik a powerful symbol for Black people worldwide.
Menelik's rule brought advances such as compulsory education, telephones and the telegraph to Ethiopia. He strengthened his kingdom through expansion and political and economic modernization.
Sundiata Keita was the founder of the Mali Empire and is popularly referred to as the Lion King. During his reign he established the territorial base of the empire and laid the foundations for its future prosperity and political unity.
Known for their progressive values and wealth, Mali followed Ghana as the next great West African empire.
The Mali Empire, under Sundiata Keita, created one of the very first charters of human rights, the Manden Charter, also known as the Kouroukan Fouga. This is an oral, rather than written, charter, which has been passed down by generations of Malinke. The Manden Charter speaks about peace within a diverse nation, the abolition of slavery, education, and food security, among other things.
Queen Nefertiti is a prominent queen from ancient Egypt. Her name means “a beautiful woman has come.” She left a legacy of strength, beauty, and power. Historians believe that she married Akhenaten, who ruled Egypt from 1353 to 1336 B.C.
Together, they had six children, including the famous King Tutankhamen. The couple is best known for their exploits in expanding the Egyptian nation. They were at the fore of Egyptian culture, promoting the nation’s artwork and language.
Queen Anna Nzinga
Queen Nzinga was powerful 17th century African ruler from Angola. Nzinga fearlessly and cleverly fought for the freedom and stature of her kingdoms against the Portuguese, who were colonizing the area at the time.
One of the great female rulers of Africa, Queen Nzinga fought against the slave trade and European influence in the seventeenth century. Known for being an astute diplomat and visionary military leader, she resisted Portuguese invasion and slave raids for 30 years. A skilled negotiator, she allied herself with the Dutch and pitted them against the Portuguese in an effort to wrest free of Portuguese domination. She fought for a free Angola until her death at age 82.
Queen Nandi was the mother of Shaka Zulu, one of the Zulu kingdom’s greatest kings. The Zulu nation was a superpower in the Southern African region. Queen Nandi’s story is one of resilience as a mother, and one of hope against social pressures.
Historians say that she fell pregnant with Shaka Zulu out of wedlock. Shaka was King Senzangakhona’s son. She endured great humiliation but remained steadfast with raising her son.
During Shaka’s reign, Queen Nandi had significant influence over the affairs of the kingdom. She was the voice of reason during times of political strife with neighbouring kingdoms. King Shaka was able to go on many exploits because of her support. He extended the borders of the Zulu kingdom over a period of 12 years.
Queen Yaa Asantewaa
Yaa Asantewaa was a Ghanaian warrior queen, who rose up to lead the Ashanti rebellion against British colonialism to defend the Golden stool. The Golden Stool is an emblem of the Ashanti Kingdom, cultural system, and power. Asantewaa was chosen by a number of regional Asante kings to be the war-leader of the Asante fighting force. This is the first and only example where a woman was given that role in Asante history.
She promoted the emancipation of women as well as gender equality. She was an intellectual, a politician, a human right activist, queen and a leader. She is known as Africa’s Joan of Arc.
Makeda - Queen of Sheba
Makeda is the Ethiopian name for the Queen of Sheba. She was a queen of incredible strength. According to legend, she survived a battle with the serpent king Awre. The serpent king was troubling the northern Ethiopian kingdom of Axum. After defeating the serpent king, Makeda became the queen of Axum.
Makeda is famous for her story with the biblical figure, King Solomon of Jerusalem. They had a son named Menelik I (or Ebna la-Hakim), meaning “son of the wise.” Their son became the first imperial ruler of Ethiopia and the first of a line of Aksûmite kings.
According to historians, Makeda and her son brought back the biblical Ark of the Covenant to Axum. Through them, the lineage of great East African and Nubian kings was born.
Ambuya Nehanda was a powerful woman spirit medium from Zimbabwe who was committed to upholding traditional Shona culture, she was instrumental in organising the nationwide resistance to colonial rule during the First Chimurenga of 1896-7.
Despite limited resources, Mbuya Nehanda led the black resistance and fought the British with spears, bows and arrows, while the enemy used the maxim gun.
When the rebellion failed, she was among the last of the leaders to be captured. Together with another leader of the rebellion, the medium of Kaguvi, she was sentenced to death and hanged by the British in 1898 , but her heroic role has made her the idol of present-day Zimbabwean revolutionaries. Her refusal to accept conversion to Christianity, her defiance on the scaffold and her prophecy that “my bones shall rise to win back freedom from the Europeans” made her a renowned spiritual matriarch.