On the coast of West Africa in the country of Ghana, the Ashanti (or Asante) people ruled the land with a warrior’s mind-set. A proud and fierce people, they would encounter British forces who sought to colonize the former Gold Coast for themselves. Although conflicting reports state that the Ashanti once did business with the Brits, it was the outsiders’ brash attempt to undermine the native dwellers that sparked off the infamous “War Of The Golden Stool” (also known as the Yaa Asantewaa War).
The Golden Stool (pictured above, bottom) is the royal throne of the Ashanti, and it is also a spiritual symbol as the tribe believed it held the souls of the people. For years during the end of the 19th century, the Ashanti people clashed with British forces.
In an attempt of peace, British Governor Sir Frederick Hodgson called for a meeting with the Ashanti and boldly asked to sit upon the golden throne.
Having already exiled the tribe’s King Prempeh in 1896, Governor Hodgson made the foolish demand not understanding the offense he made.
Read an excerpt of Governor Hodgson’s speech and demand here:
Where is the Golden Stool? I am the representative of the Paramount Power. Why have you relegated me to this ordinary chair? Why did you not take the opportunity of my coming to Kumasi to bring the Golden Stool for me to sit upon?
Enraged at the British, the Ashanti showed no outward reaction to the Governor. Instead, Queen Mother Yaa Asantewaa (pictured at right), herself a war leader, gathered men to attack the Brits and find their king. Hodgson ordered a search of the throne, which the Ashanti kept hidden from the forces. Asantewaa, seeing fear in the eyes of her soldiers, then delivered a stirring speech to inspire them to go to war.
Yaa Asantewaa to the Ashanti:
Now I see that some of you fear to go forward to fight for our king…in the brave days of Osei Tutu, Okomfo Anokye, and Opoku Ware, chiefs would not sit down to see their king to be taken away without firing a shot. No European could have dared speak to chiefs of Asante in the way the governor spoke to you this morning. Is it true that the bravery of Asante is no more? I cannot believe it. It cannot be! I must say this: if you, the men of Asante, will not go forward, then we will. We, the women, will. I shall call upon my fellow women. We will fight! We will fight till the last of us falls in the battlefields.
Watch Queen Asantewaa’s speech and story here:
Queen Asantewaa’s (also pictured at left) bravery and leadership inspired her people to fight, and for months, they kept the British forces at bay. Using sharp military techniques, Queen Asantewaa and her soldiers cut food supplies, communications, and set up blockades. However, the British would send 1,400 troops and seize the Ashanti fighters.
Although Queen Asantewaa was not able to fight off the reinforcements, they did save the Golden Stool from capture.
Asantewaa and other leaders were exiled from the Gold Coast. She would die in the Seychelles on October 17, 1921. Three years later, King Prempeh returned from exile and would give Asantewaa a proper burial as custom for the Ashanti people. On March 6, 1957, Ghana would declare its independence and became the first sub-Saharan African country to do so.