Dame Portugaise was a woman of mixed heritage, born to a Portuguese father and African mother, who became a prominent slave trader in the Wrst African coastal town of Rufisque. She was active in the 17th century and is considered the earliest known example of a Luso-African Nhara slave trader.
Dame Portugaise was a Luso-African woman who established herself as a successful slave trader and merchant in Rufisque in the 1600s.
Born to a Portuguese man and an African woman, Dame Portugaise utilized her unique background and extensive network of contacts on both sides of the Atlantic to become a pivotal figure in the business and diplomatic relations between the Europeans and Africans in the region.
She was able to establish herself as a leading slave trader by acting as a middleman between the Europeans and the African rulers of the region. Her connections with both groups allowed her to negotiate prices and terms for the sale of slaves and serve as a mediator in disputes. She was well-respected by both the Portuguese and Africans, and was able to use her position as a contact channel to her advantage.
As a slave trader, Dame Portugaise would purchase slaves from African rulers, chiefs and slave hunters and sell them to the Europeans for transport across the Atlantic Ocean to the Americas.
Dame Portugaise effectively controlled the entire slave trade business in Rufisque, becoming one of the most influential figures in the region and amassed a considerable fortune as a result. Her success and influence paved the way for many other Euro-African businesswomen who followed in her footsteps and played similar roles in the trade and diplomatic relations between the Europeans and Africans.
In addition to Dame Portugaise, other notable African female slave traders throughout history include:
Overall, the stories of these women challenge our understanding of the transatlantic slave trade as a solely male-dominated industry. They show that women were also involved in the trade, and that they played a variety of roles, from traders to resistance fighters to abolitionists.