The Real Warriors Behind ‘The Woman King’

Meilan Solly in The Smithsonian:

At its height in the 1840s, the West African kingdom of Dahomey boasted an army so fierce that its enemies spoke of its “prodigious bravery.” This 6,000-strong force, known as the Agojie, raided villages under cover of darkness, took captives and slashed off resisters’ heads to return to their king as trophies of war. Through these actions, the Agoije established Dahomey’s preeminence over neighboring kingdoms and became known by European visitors as “Amazons” due to their similarities to the warrior women of Greek myth.

The Woman King, a new movie starring Viola Davis as a fictionalized leader of the Agojie, tells the story of this all-woman fighting force. Directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood, the film takes place as conflict engulfs the region, and the specter of European colonization looms ominously. It represents the first time that the American film industry has dramatized the compelling story.

More here.