Ganga Zumbi, the African freedom fighter, Was born in Kongo in 1630, enslaved and shipped to Brazil to work as a plantation slave. Managed to escape, raised an army of enslaved Africans and founded his own kingdom of Palmares, with a palace and court.
Ganga’s name must have come from “Nganga Nzambi” an expression meaning “God’s priest” in Kikongo, language spoken in the Kongo empire.
Ganga Zumba was a hero and freedom fighter who was central to the history and modern-day struggle of the Brazilian Black Movement, having led an alliance of “independent settlements” called Quilombo dos Palmares.
An area located between the states of Alagoas and Pernambuco, in northeastern Brazil, Quilombo dos Palmares was founded by runway Brazilian African captives in the late 16th century as resistance to European colonizers and enslavers.
About 10 to 20 thousand fugitive slaves, native Brazilians and various outcast groups (such as Jews and Muslims), inhabited Palmares throughout the period. (Early 1600s — 1694)
The area became one of the first places, in the Americas, where Black captives found freedom. For almost a hundred years, Black people in Quilombo fought against their oppressors, particularly the Portuguese who at that time attempted to colonize Brazil.
Zumba, as king of Quilombo, led these attacks against the oppressors & despite repeated threats from the colonial authorities, Quilombo thrived as fugitive captive set up a collective economy based upon subsistence agriculture, trade, and communal land ownership.
Ganga’s end came when attempting to establish a treaty with the Portuguese where the quilombo would no longer accept fugitive slaves or fight the Portuguese in exchange for permanent recognition of their land and freedom for those born in Palmares.
The condition was for the palmarinos to move elsewhere—the Cucau Valley. In the treaty, the Portuguese confirmed their acceptance of Zumba is the supreme leader of his people.
His nephew, Zumbi, the settlement’s military leader, disapproved and staged a coup against him. He chose resistance to the Portuguese.
Ganga Zumba is poisoned later that year. The common belief is that it was by those siding with Zumbi. Those loyal to Ganga would move to the Cucau Valley to re-establish Palmares.
Unfortunately, they would be captured and placed back into slavery. To hold on to Palmares territory, Zumbi turned his revolt on the Portuguese.