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These Real-Life African Women Warriors Inspired the Black Panther Film

Dahomey Warriors who inspired the Black Panther film

It’s hard to not notice the similarities and the inspiration of the Dahomey Warriors that was used to create the fictional Dora Milaje Army featured in Marvel’s Black Panther comic book series and movie franchise. On the coast of West Africa, the Dahomey Kingdom, in what is now modern-day Benin, was once home to the only appointed elite female warrior troop in history.
There are various myths about the creation of this army commonly known as the Dahomey Amazons. One of them is the oral legend, which states that the Dahomey Warriors were descendants of Queen Hangbe who was the twin sister of the King of Dahomey, Akaba. She was a warrior who led men and women in battle and it is believed that during her reign (which could have ranged from three months – to three years), she gradually established an all-female troop called the Dahomey Warriors.

Another myth surrounding the origins of the Dahomey Warriors is that they were formed to protect their kingdom. The kingdom of Dahomey was outnumbered by their enemies and the rise of the European slave trade forced Kings of Dahomey to conscript women into the military with their main objective to protect the King and their kingdom.

At the end of the 19th century, however, the Dahomey kingdom found themselves fighting the French. Unfortunately, they eventually lost their battle to the French, and nowadays very little is known of the survivors. Many sources claim that the last of the Dahomey Warriors, a woman named Nawi, was discovered living in a remote village but she died at the age of 100 in 1979.

Other sources suggest that the last of the Dahomey Warriors died in the 1940s.

Either way, the Dahomey Warriors go down in history as strategic leaders, fearless warriors, ruthless soldiers, and respected protectors. A French soldier once praised them as “warrioresses… [who] fight with extreme valor, always ahead of the other troops." He continued, "They are outstandingly brave… well trained for combat and very disciplined."