On this day in 1900, Yaa Asantewaa delivered a rousing speech that launched the War of the Golden Stool against British colonial rulers.
Asantewaa was a queen in the Ashanti empire, modern-day Ghana, on the west coast of Africa. She was chosen by the regional Asante kings to lead the warriors.
The Golden Stool (Asikadwa) is the royal throne of the Ashanti kings — the ultimate symbol of power in the Asante kingdom. According to legend, the stool descended from the sky and landed on the lap of the first Asante king. It’s a sacred object, believed to house the spirit of the Asante nation, and it’s kept in a hidden place.
According to tradition, if the Golden Stool were ever destroyed or captured by enemies, the entire Asante kingdom would descend into chaos.
In 1900, the British Governor of the Gold Coast demanded to be allowed to sit on the Golden Stool. It was a naked power play, an assertion of domination.
At a meeting of leaders the Asante government on March 28, 1900, the chiefs struggled to agree on a military solution. Some suggested conceding to the British.
But Asantewaa stepped forward and challenged the council: “How can a proud and brave people like the Asante sit back and look while white men took away their king and chiefs, and humiliated them with a demand for the Golden Stool?”
Then, to emphasize her determination to fight, she seized a gun and fired a shot in front of the men. That shot marked the beginning of the Ashante rebellion against colonial Britain.
“How can a proud and brave people like the Asante sit back and look while white men took away their king and chiefs, and humiliated them with a demand for the Golden Stool?”
After assembling her warriors, Asantewaa gave another fiery speech, telling them that to die defending the Golden Stool was more honorable than remaining in subjugation.
“Gallant youth and men of our fatherland, shall we sit down to be dehumanized all the time by these rogues? We should rise and defend our heritage.”
“Shall we sit down to be dehumanized all the time by these rogues? We should rise and defend our heritage.”
After several months, the Gold Coast governor eventually sent a force of 1,400 to suppress the rebellion. That was the final battle in the long-running Anglo-Asante wars — but the Golden Stool itself was not captured. Asantewaa and 15 of her advisors were sent into exile in the Seychelles, where she died in 1921.
It wasn’t until 1957 that the Asante protectorate gained independence from Britain, and Ghana became the first independent sub‐Saharan country in the post-colonial years.
Yaa Asantewaa is beloved in Black history for standing up to colonial powers. Let’s also celebrate her today for using her voice to defend her people.
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