How The Woman King whitewashes African slavery

Resources for understanding the true history of the Kingdom of Dahomey, and how the historical movie The Woman King whitewashes African slavery.

The director’s movie has attempted to defend the movie against charges of historical revisionism, but professional historians have criticized it strongly, and there have been calls for a boycott.

Achebe, Nwando. Female Monarchs and Merchant Queens in Africa. Athens, Ohio: Ohio University Press, 2020.

Adejuwon, Akin. “‘Art’ of War: Analysis of Weapons of the 19th Century Yoruba Civil Wars” 8 (2019): 29.

AFP. “Benin Restores Slavery Monuments to Testify to Brutal Past.” France 24, 11 August 2020.

Agaja, Trudo. “From My Great and Principal Palace of Abomey in the Kingdom of Dahomey and Empire of Pawpow, January 1726.” The European Magazine: And London Review 15 (1789).

Agawu-Kakraba, Yaw, and Komla F. Aggor. African, Lusophone, and Afro-Hispanic Cultural Dialogue. Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2018.

Alpern, Stanley B. Amazons of Black Sparta, 2nd Edition: The Women Warriors of Dahomey. Washington Square, New York: NYU Press, 2011.

Anderson, Carys. “The Woman King Celebrates Forgotten Badass Women Without Becoming a Cheap Girlboss Statement: Review.” Consequence, 16 September 2022.

Araujo, Ana Lucia. “Dahomey, Portugal and Bahia: King Adandozan and the Atlantic Slave Trade.” Slavery & Abolition 33.1 (2012): 1–19.

———. “Forgetting and Remembering the Atlantic Slave Trade: The Legacy of Brazilian Slave Merchant Francisco Félix de Sousa.” Crossing Memories: Slavery and African Diaspora. Edited by Mariana Pinho Candido and Paul E. Lovejoy. Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press, 2011.

———. Living History: Encountering the Memory of the Heirs of Slavery. Newcastle upon Tyne, UK: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2009.

———. Politics of Memory: Making Slavery Visible in the Public Space. Routledge, 2013.

———. Public Memory of Slavery. Amherst, NY: Cambria Press, n.d.

———. Reparations for Slavery and the Slave Trade: A Transnational and Comparative History. Bloomsbury Publishing, 2017.

———. “The Woman King Softens the Truth of the Slave Trade.” Slate, 16 September 2022.

———. “Welcome the Diaspora: Slave Trade Heritage Tourism and the Public Memory of Slavery.” Ethno 32.2 (2011): 145–78.

Austen, Ralph A. “The Abolition of the Overseas Slave Trade: A Distorted Theme in West African History.” Journal of the Historical Society of Nigeria 5.2 (1970): 257–74.

Austin, Algernon. “It’s Time to Stop Whitewashing Civil Rights History.” HuffPost, 4 February 2016.

Bay, Edna G. “Protection, Political Exile, and the Atlantic Slave Trade: History and Collective Memory in Dahomey.” Slavery & Abolition 22.1 (2001): 22–41.

———. Wives of the Leopard: Gender, Politics, and Culture in the Kingdom of Dahomey. University of Virginia Press, 2012.

Bezerra, Nielson Rosa, and Elaine Pereira Rocha. Another Black Like Me: The Construction of Identities and Solidarity in the African Diaspora. Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2015.

Black, Jeremy. War In the Early Modern World, 1450-1815. Hoboken: Taylor and Francis, 2012.

Blier, Suzanne Preston. Picasso’s Demoiselles: The Untold Origins of a Modern Masterpiece. Duke University Press, 2019.

Booker, Bobbi. “West Africa’s Amazons Profiled for Smithsonian’s ‘Epic Women’ Series.” The Philadelphia Tribune, 31 March 2018.

Burlingame, Jon. “How ‘The Woman King’ Score Honors the Language of the Dahomey Warriors Through Chants and Songs.” Variety, 19 September 2022.

Burnett, John. “Slavery’s Bitter Legacy in W. Africa.” NPR, 12 April 2004, § Radio Expeditions.

Burton, Sir Richard Francis. A Mission to Gelele, King of Dahome. Tinsley brothers, 1864.

Campbell, hn. “Confronting Africa’s Role in the Slave Trade.” Council on Foreign Relations, 26 September 2019.

Dalrymple-Smith, Angus. “The Bight of Benin: Dahomey and the Dominance of Export Slavery.” Pages 218–47 in Commercial Transitions and Abolition in West Africa 1630–1860. Vol. 9 of Studies in Global Slavery. Leiden; Boston: Brill, 2020.,

Demski, Dagnosław, and Dominika Czarnecka. “Introduction: From Western to Peripheral Voices.” Staged Otherness: Ethnic Shows in Central and Eastern Europe, 1850–1939. Edited by Dagnosław Demski and Dominika Czarnecka. Central European University Press, 2021.

Diawara, Manthia. African Cinema: Politics & Culture. Indiana University Press, 1992.

Dipio, Dominica. Gender Terrains in African Cinema. African Books Collective, 2019.

DK. The Black History Book: Big Ideas Simply Explained. Penguin, 2021.

Dupuis, Annie, and Jacques Ivanoff. Ethnocentrisme et création. Les Editions de la MSH, 2014.

Engerman, Stanley L. “Apologies, Regrets, and Reparations.” European Review 17.3–4 (2009): 593–610.

Eze, Chinelo. “The Historical Story That Birth The Famous Film ‘The Woman King.’” The Guardian Nigeria News – Nigeria and World News, 14 September 2022.

Ezekwesili, Obiageli. “Opinion | China Must Pay Reparations to Africa for Its Coronavirus Failures.” Washington Post, 16 April 2020.

Falola, Toyin. “The End of Slavery among the Yoruba.” Slavery & Abolition 19.2 (1998): 232–49.

Flanagan, Jane. “Hollywood Finds New Action Heroes in Dynasty of Female Warriors.” The Times, 5 September 2022.

Foote, Andrew Hull. Africa and the American Flag. New York: Appleton, 1854.

Forbes, Frederick Edwyn. Dahomey and the Dahomans: Being the Journals of Two Missions to the King of Dahomey, and Residence at His Capital, in the Year 1849 and 1850. Longman, Brown, Green,and Longmans, 1851.

Fuglestad, Finn. Slave Traders by Invitation: West Africa’s Slave Coast in the Precolonial Era. Oxford University Press, 2018.

Fujishima, Kenji. “‘The Woman King’ Review: An Upflifting but Stale Battle Cry.” Slant Magazine, 16 September 2022.

Goldstein, Erik. Wars and Peace Treaties, 1816-1991. London; New York: Routledge, 1992.

Gomez, Michael A. African Dominion: A New History of Empire in Early and Medieval West Africa. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2018.

Gooden, Tai. “The History of the Kingdom of Dahomey and the Dahomey Amazons.” Nerdist, 15 March 2022.

Grant-Gale, Tahra. “Tristar Pictures Acquires Worldwide Rights To The Woman King | Sony Pictures Entertainment.” Sony Pictures, 1 March 2018.

Green, Toby. A Fistful of Shells: West Africa from the Rise of the Slave Trade to the Age of Revolution. University of Chicago Press, 2019.,

Grobar, Matt. “‘The Woman King’ First Look: Viola Davis & Thuso Mbedu Lead Gina Prince-Bythewood’s Historical Epic For TriStar.” Deadline, 1 February 2022.

Hancock, Ange-Marie. Solidarity Politics for Millennials. New York: Palgrave Macmillan US, 2011.,

Hardung, Christine. “Everyday Life of Slaves in Northern Dahomey: The Process of Remembering.” Journal of African Cultural Studies 15.1 (2002): 35–44.

Hargreaves, John D. West Africa Partitioned. London: Palgrave Macmillan UK, 1985.,

Harrow, Kenneth W. With Open Eyes: Women and African Cinema. Rodopi, 1997.

Hornbuckle, Jon. “​​Everything You Need to Know about ‘The Woman King.’” Time Out Worldwide, 7 July 2022.

Houngnikpo, Mathurin C., and Samuel Decalo. “ADANDOZAN, KING (1797-1818).” Historical Dictionary of Benin. Rowman & Littlefield, 2013.

James, Caryn. “The Woman King Review: ‘A Spectacular, Action-Filled Epic.’” BBC, 10 September 2022.

Johnson, Jeroslyn. “Nicole Hannah-Jones’ Response to ‘The Woman King’ Sparks Slavery Debate on Twitter.” Black Enterprise, 18 August 2022.

Johnson, Theodore R. “How to Apologize for Slavery.” The Atlantic, 6 August 2014.

Jr, Terry Carter. “John Boyega Explained Why It Was Important For ‘The Woman King’ To Address Slavery In The Way That It Does.” BuzzFeed, 16 September 2022.

Kataria, Mita. “‘The Woman King’: John Boyega Joins Viola Davis in the Period Drama.” Showbiz Cheat Sheet, 22 September 2021.


Kelley, Sonaiya. “The Truth behind ‘The Woman King’: Crew Responds to Claims of Historical Revisionism.” Los Angeles Times, 28 September 2022.

Kennerk, ad. “Making History: Gina Prince-Bythewood on the Epic Story of The Woman King.” Boxoffice, 14 September 2022.

Kit, Borys. “John Boyega Joins Viola Davis in Historical Drama ‘The Woman King’ (Exclusive).” The Hollywood Reporter, 21 September 2021.

Landry, Timothy R. Vodun: Secrecy and the Search for Divine Power. University of Pennsylvania Press, 2018.

Larsen, Lynne. “City of Women: Gendered Space in the Pre-Colonial Palace of Dahomey.” U.T.A.J. (2009).

Law, Robin. “A West African Cavalry State: The Kingdom of Oyo.” J. Afr. Hist. 16.1 (1975): 1–15.

———. “An African Response to Abolition: Anglo‐Dahomian Negotiations on Ending the Slave Trade, 1838–77.” Slavery & Abolition 16.3 (1995): 281–310.

———. “Dahomey and the Slave Trade: Reflections on the Historiography of the Rise of Dahomey.” J. Afr. Hist. 27.2 (1986): 237–67.

———. From Slave Trade to “Legitimate” Commerce: The Commercial Transition in Nineteenth-Century West Africa. Cambridge University Press, 2002.

———. “The English Interpreters in Dahomey, 1843–1852.” The Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History 44.5 (2016): 730–51.

Leskinen, Maria. “A Century of Elision? Ethnic Shows in Central and Eastern Europe, 1850–1939.” Staged Otherness: Ethnic Shows in Central and Eastern Europe, 1850–1939. Edited by Dagnosław Demski and Dominika Czarnecka. Central European University Press, 2021.

Mackenthun, Sebastian Jobs, Gesa. Embodiments of Cultural Encounters. Waxmann Verlag, 2011.

Magazine, Smithsonian, and Mike Dash. “Dahomey’s Women Warriors.” Smithsonian Magazine, 23 September 2011.

Maggs, Sam. Girl Squads: 20 Female Friendships That Changed History. Philadelphia, PA: Quirk Books, 2018.

Malik, Adeel, and Vanessa Bouaroudj. “The Predicament of Establishing Persistence: Slavery and Human Capital in Africa.” HPE 1.3 (2021): 411–46.

Manning, Patrick. Slavery, Colonialism, and Economic Growth in Dahomey, 1640-1960. African Studies Series 30. Cambridge ; New York: Cambridge University Press, 1982.

Masioni, Pat, and Sylvia Serbin. The Women Soldiers of Dahomey_Women in African History_Comic Strip_0.Pdf. Women in African History. Paris, France: United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, 2014.

Mazrui, Ali AlʾAmin, ed. Africa since 1935. 1. publ. General History of Africa / UNESCO, International Scientific Committee for the Drafting of a General History of Africa 8. Oxford: Heinemann [u.a.], 1993.

———. “Introduction.” Africa since 1935. Edited by Ali AlʾAmin Mazrui. 1. publ. General History of Africa / UNESCO, International Scientific Committee for the Drafting of a General History of Africa 8. Oxford: Heinemann [u.a.], 1993.

McDonnell, Brandy. “Gina Prince-Bythewood Sets Netflix Record with ‘The Old Guard,’ to Direct ‘The Woman King’ | The Week in Women.” The Week In Women, 19 July 2020.

Meredith, Martin. The Fortunes of Africa: A 5000-Year History of Wealth, Greed, and Endeavor. PublicAffairs, 2014.

Monroe, J. Cameron. The Precolonial State in West Africa: Building Power in Dahomey. Cambridge University Press, 2014.

———. “Urbanism on West Africa’s Slave Coast.” American Scientist 99 (2011): 400–409.

Morton-Williams, Peter. “A Yoruba Woman Remembers Servitude in a Palace of Dahomey, in the Reigns of Kings Glele and Behanzin.” Africa 63.1 (1993): 102–17.

Muhammad, Patricia M. “The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade’s African Elephant in the International Courtroom: West Africa’s Debt of Reparations to the Descendants of the Black Diaspora.” Race, Racism and the Law, n.d.


Murphy, Laura T. Metaphor and the Slave Trade in West African Literature. Athens, Ohio: Ohio University Press, 2012.

Mwanza, Veronica. “Exploring the History of the Agoji, the Warrior Women of the Dahomey Kingdom.” The Best of Africa, 21 October 2020.

Newburry, Colin W. “The Western Slave Coast and Its Rulers: European Trade and Administration among the Yoruba and Adja-Speaking Peoples of South-Western Nigeria, Southern Dahomey and Togo” (n.d.): 247.

Nwakor, Ada. “Viola Davis Stars In Upcoming Film, ‘The Woman King.’” The NATIVE, 3 February 2022.

Nwaubani, Adaobi Tricia. “‘My Nigerian Great-Grandfather Sold Slaves.’” BBC News, 18 July 2020, § Africa.

Nyan, Evie. “Here’s What Japanese People Think of Hollywood’s Recent ‘Whitewashing’【Video】.” SoraNews24 -Japan News-, 26 April 2016.

Okogba, Emmanuel. “The Wars Yoruba Fight.” Vanguard News, 6 February 2021.

Patches, Matt. “The Woman King Director on What Really Matters in a Historical Epic.” Polygon, 17 September 2022.

Patton, Stacy. “Not Even ‘The Woman King’ Warriors Can Escape The Colonizer’s Kiss.” MadameNoire, 12 July 2022.

Pierre, Mekishana. “‘The Woman King’: Viola Davis and John Boyega on How the Film Puts Women at the Forefront (Exclusive) | Entertainment Tonight.” ET Online, 7 September 2022.

Pinkvilla Desk. “Gina Prince Bythewood to Direct the Historical Drama The Woman King Starring Oscar Winner Viola Davis.” PINKVILLA, 15 July 2020.

Potholm, Christian P. Hiding in Plain Sight: Women Warriors Throughout Time and Space. Rowman & Littlefield, 2021.

Potter, Alexis. “‘The Woman King’ Isn’t Historically Accurate. Here’s Why It’s Still Worth Watching.” The Arizona Republic, 14 September 2022.

Ramos, Miguel Willie. “La Division de La Habana: Territorial Conflict and Cultural Hegemony in the Followers of Oyo Lukumi Religion, 1850s-1920s.” Cuban Studies 34.1 (2003): 38–70.

Regis, Helen A. “Ships on the Wall: Retracing African Trade Routes from Marseille, France.” Genealogy 5.2 (2021): art. 2, p. 27.

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Review, The Kalahari. “Why Nigeria Should Pay Reparations for the Slave Trade.” Medium, 4 September 2018.

Rife, Katie. “The Woman King Is an Action Movie with a Fire in Its Belly.” Polygon, 13 September 2022.

River, Julie. “Is The Woman King Actually Based On A True Story?” Looper, 8 October 2022.

Ronen, Dov. “On the African Role in the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade in Dahomey.” Cahiers d’Études Africaines 11 (1971): 5–13.

Rowley, Jim. “The Woman King – What We Know So Far.” Looper.Com, 3 September 2021.

Sanusi, Victoria. “Lupita Nyong’o on Warrior Women, Whitewashed History and Her Colourism Book.” Gal-Dem, 22 October 2019.

Scanlan, Padraic. “British Antislavery and West Africa.” Oxford Research Encyclopedia of African History, 31 August 2021.,

Schimkowitz, Matt. “Viola Davis Responds to ‘Boycott Woman King’ Controversy.” The A.V. Club, 20 September 2022.

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Sonderegger, Arno. “Thoughts on Two Late 18th Century Histories of Dahomey Relating to the Anti-Slavery Debate.” Application/pdf (2018): 434521 b.

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Wehniainen, Grace. “Is ‘The Woman King’ Based on a True Story? Here’s Everything You Need to Know.” Oprah Daily, 24 August 2022.

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