A few weeks ago I saw the Woman King and just like audiences all over the world I was blown away by the excellent cast and how beautifully the movie was shot. But most of all I love how a West African historical setting is the main focus in a Hollywood blockbuster! This movie has created a lot of attention and heated debate. Not least because of the justified critique of historical revisionism. Rest assured this blog post won’t feature yet another review in that line-up! However I will be providing an overview of resources and research findings which should be helpful to learn more about the historical and also genetic relevance of slave trade from the Bight of Benin.
The kingdom of Dahomey was located right at the center of the Bight of Benin which infamously was also known as the Slave Coast. The impact of slave trade from the Bight of Benin has been widespread across the Americas. For various groups of Atlantic Afro-descendants. But especially in terms of cultural retention there are some stand-out areas such as Brazil, Cuba, Haiti and Suriname. And genetically speaking also Barbados. Hopefully this blog post can serve as some kind of guidance for interpreting your own personal DNA results when wanting to trace back to Benin and neighbouring countries.
Before I continue I do want to quickly clarify my own stance on the Woman King controversy.1 When blogging about DNA test results on Ancestry and 23andme I have always warned against absolute dismissal. Because this may leave you empty-handed even when valuable insights are still to be gained! Instead from the start I have argued for a glass half-full mentality. Of course critical assessment is still required. But I firmly believe that you should always attempt to inform yourself about context, be aware of nuances and check your own bias, before passing judgement. The Woman King movie provides an excellent opportunity to do just that! In the last section of this blog post I will post many more useful links but a highly recommended starting point for more research is:
- The Woman King Syllabus (created by Professsor of History at Howard University: Ana Lucia Araujo)
Contents of this blog post:
- Historical: Dahomey kingdom, Oyo kingdom, slave ports along Bight of Benin
- Ethno-linguistic: Benin, Yorubaland
- Ethnic origins of captives from the Bight of Benin
- Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database
- “Benin/Togo” on Ancestry is a good indicator, but also look for associated DNA matches!
- Genetic Groups on 23andme associated with Bight of Benin lineage
- Genealogy: Clotilda descendants and Afro-Brazilian communities in Benin/Nigeria
- Cultural/Genetic links with Afro-Diaspora
- History of Dahomey
- Reviews of Woman King