The Mbundu people make up 25% of Angola. Queen Nzingha, who fought the Portuguese in the 1600s, was Mbundu. So was Agostinho Neto, who fought them in the 1900s. So was Lesliana Pereira, Miss Angola 2008 (pictured above). And so were the Africans who arrived at Jamestown, Virginia in 1619, beginning Black American history.
The Mbundu in 1450:
- Location: northern Angola.
- Population: about 500,000.
- Language: Kimbundu, a Bantu language.
- Religion: worshipped spirits of ancestors, hills, water, woods, etc. Witchcraft, divining.
- Government: kingdoms.
- Society: matrilineal lineages with the oldest males in charge. Craft guilds. Circumcision.
- Economy: Farming, hunting, fishing, crafts, trade, etc.
- grew: sorghum, millet.
- raised: goats, sheep, guinea fowl, cows.
- hunted: rats, birds, porcupines, hyenas, lions, elephants.
- Technology: iron, no writing.
- weapons: spears, bows and arrows, machetes.
- Origins: arrived from the north by about the year 100 as part of the
In the 1480s, White people began to appear: the Portuguese. At first they came as traders, later as slave raiders.
In 1575 the Portuguese founded Luanda along the Mbundu coast. It will become the centre of the slave trade to Brazil.
In 1618, the Portuguese and their Imbangala allies overthrow Kabasa, the capital of Ndongo, the most powerful Mbundu kingdom. Ndongo had no guns. The people of Kabasa were marched to the coast to Luanda to be put on slave ships.
Twenty of them, bound for Veracruz, Mexico, fell into the hands of Dutch pirates and were taken to Virginia instead. They arrived at Jamestown on August 20th 1619, a year before the Mayflower. A fourth of all Black Americans will come from the Congo Angola region, many of them Mbundu.
From 1619 to 1657, Queen Nzingha fought the Portuguese and their allies and kept them at bay, with some Dutch help. After her death, the Mbundu fought on into the 1700s, but lost the lion’s share of their labour force to the slave trade.
In the 1600s, the Portuguese brought cassava from the Americas. It did better than sorghum or millet under the uncertain rains of that part of Africa.
In the 1900s, the Portuguese forced Mbundu farmers to grow cotton, paying them less than a fair price. They kicked other farmers off their land and gave it to White coffee growers. The dispossessed farmers were then arrested as vagrants and forced to work for coffee growers at poverty wages. These policies led to famines.
The Catholic Church controlled education and taught the Mbundu only in Portuguese. It preached absolute obedience to authority (meaning White rule). It held up the Portuguese as a shining example to the Mbundu.
That led to the rise of the assimilados: Westernized Mbundus. They understand they are brainwashed by the West, but still push to get rid of things like witchcraft and sexism. They are seen as out of touch with ordinary Mbundus, but they did lead the fight against White rule.
The MPLA led that fight under Agostinho Neto. In 1975 the Portuguese left. In 2016, after long years of civil war, the MPLA is still the ruling party in Angola. It is heavily Mbundu.
– Abagond, 2016.
Sources: “In Search of Our Roots” (2009) by Henry Louis Gates, Jr; “Creating Black Americans” (2006) by Nell Irvin Painter; “Mbundu” (1997) by Onwuka N. Njoku, PhD.
- Queen Nzingha
- Agostinho Neto
- Portuguese Empire
- Anglo Americans
- Swahili civilization, 700 to 1500
- Songhay Empire
- Africa: the last 13,000 years
- Bantu Expansion
- DNA tests and Black Americans – actor Chris Tucker’s father’s line goes back to the Mbundu.