Xena Was Black

File this under things you learn every day.

Amina was born around 1533 in Zaria, a province of today’s Nigeria. She was the daughter of Bakwa of Turunku. Their family’s wealth was derived from the trade of leather goods, cloth, kola, salt, horses, and imported metals.

When Bakwa died in 1566, the crown of Zazzua passed to Amina’s younger brother, Karama. Their sister, Zaria, fled the region and little is known about her.

Although Bakwa’s reign was known for peace and prosperity, Amina chose to hone her military skills from the warriors of the Zazzau military. As a result, she emerged as leader of the Zazzua cavalry. Many accolades, great wealth, and increased power resulted from her numerous military achievements.

When her brother Karama died after a ten-year rule, Amina had matured into a fierce warrior and had earned the respect of the Zazzau military and she assumed the reign of the kingdom.

Amina led her first military charge a few months after assuming power. For the rest of her 34 year reign, she continued to fight and expand her kingdom to the greatest in history. The objective for initiating so many battles was to make neighboring rulers her vassal and permit her traders safe passage. In this way, she boosted her kingdom’s wealth and power with gold, slaves, and new crops. Because her people were talented metal workers, Amina introduced metal armor, including iron helmets and chain mail, to her army.

To her credit, she fortified each of her military camps with an earthen wall. Later, towns and villages sprung up within these protective barriers. The walls became known as Amina’s Walls and many of them remain in existence to this day.

According to legend, Amina refused to marry and never bore children. Instead, she took a temporary husband from the legions of vanquished foes after every battle. After spending one night together, she would condemn him death in the morning in order to prevent him from ever speaking about his sexual encounter with the queen.

Queen Amina of Zaria, Nigeria

Legend also decrees she died during a military campaign at Atagara near Bida in Nigeria. Her exploits earned her the moniker Amina, daughter of Nikatau, a woman as capable as a man.

Now if Amina’s story sounds incredibly familiar to many of you, there’s a reason for that. Amina was used as a model for the fictional heroine Xena: Warrior Princess.

Given the fact that Amina’s origins and exploits reads almost verbatim to Xena’s, I’m inclined to believe it.

You know what this means right? Xena was based on a historical black woman. You know, I used to joke for years that Xena had a bit of a sister in her. Everything from her swagger, to her weakness for the brothers. NOW it makes sense, and I wasn’t projecting that.

The real Xena was black. I knew it!


Now anyone who’s known me for five seconds knows how much I love me some Xena: Warrior Princess. In addition to being a great show, it broke a lot of ground and paved the way for female and queer protagonists. Given that both Xena and Gabrielle were queer heroines. I would even argue that Xena will probably go down as television’s greatest action hero of all time. She’s the Greek mythical equivalent of Batman only more badass.

Whether she stars on Xena, Battlestar Galactica, or Spartacus, people also know I’m down for all things Lucy (F)Lawless. But damn, we should’ve had a Black Xena.

Imagine if instead of getting cast for the role of Nebula and Cleopatra on Hercules and Xena, the goddess herself, Gina Torres was handed the role of the warrior princess. She would’ve have redefined the term perfection, more than she does now. If that’s even possible or imaginable.


Say it with me: #BlackGirlMagic and #BlackGirlsRock!!!!!!

Further Reading:



25 thoughts on “Xena Was Black

  1. You went where my mind was going….If Xena was Black who could’ve been cast in the role? This is a timely topic because Xena has been off the air for a while and could be rebooted, but this time with a Black actress headlining and maybe a male sidekick or a white sidekick. I like your nomination of Gina Torres. And, here are my TOP 5 candidates:

    1. Naomi Campbell (The uber model from Empire and Idris Elba’s “head turner.” LOL
    2. Danai Gurira (Michonne frm. The Walking Dead)
    3. Rosario Dawson (Top 5)
    4. Serena Williams (OH HELL YEAH!!!)
    5. LaVerne Cox (OITNB) Zowie!

  2. If Amina’s story is that legendary then why reboot Xena as a black woman? Why not tell the story of Amina of Zaria instead?

    Perhaps a European or a Nigerian company should handle the production. We can’t count on Americans to franchise a Black African saga.

    1. Or we could just reboot Xena as black. Since she was the inspiration to begin with.

      Also, Lone Ranger, Bass Reeves. Nuff said.

      1. So the life of Amina just gets disgarded, like all other foreign stories. That perpetuates the colonial notion the West keeps destroying other people’s history.

    2. Xena has a built-in fan base, while Amina of Zaria would be new to fans. Reboots are par for the course these days.

      Lucy (F)Lawless indirectly makes the case for a Xena reboot with an actress of a different color based on her firm connection with the Battlestar Galactica (reboot), wherein Starbuck was re-cast from a white male to a white female; Boomer was re-cast from a black male to an Asian female and even Adama became Hispanic and General Tighe went from black male to white male.

      These re-jiggerings are interesting and in Xena’s case, quite appropriate given the fact that she is based on Amina of Zaria.

    3. Because the story of Amina might not work well with dragons and monsters…

    1. Well Bernie B, if you’re feeling that strongly about Amina, feel free to write her story yourself and put in the work and make sure that she gets celebrated.

      Step up. Get in formation.

      Don’t talk about it. Be about it.

      1. You’re giving an excuse that you would be given yourself? It’s obvious Amina’s story needs to be told by someone besides me and you. You’ve already brought her up as a mere footnote so it’s up to somebody who is more inspired to realize this woman’s life into the media. And it seems the target audience should be people outside of America, like Nigerians.

      2. So in other words, you have no intentions of walking the talk. Just you know talk. Got it.

  3. I was talking with someone the other day about “Xena Was Black,” more specifically about the idea of Gina Torres playing the new Xena and he had the audacity to say that even though the individual “loves her on Suits,” she might be “too old” they would probably want someone in their 20s or 30s to play her.

    Really? What an ageist-sexist remark, especially when no one says a peep about the 50-year-old Robert Downey, Jr. playing Iron Man or or the 48-year-old Mark Ruffalo playing The Hulk.

    1. Charlize Theron is 47 and I heard no complaints when she portrayed Furiosa in Mad Max.

  4. Maybe he was just speculating out loud but I thought he was dead wrong on that one. Great example re: Theron as Imperator Furiosa.

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