Francisco Félix de Sousa

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Francisco Félix de Souza

Francisco Félix de Sousa (1754 – 1849) was a Brazilian slave trader who was deeply influential in the regional politics of pre-colonial West Africa (namely, current-day Nigeria, Benin, Ghana and Togo). A white Brazilian of Portuguese ancestry, he founded Afro-Brazilian communities in the areas that now belong to all four said countries, and went on to become the "chacha" (Vice-Roy) of the Kingdom of Ouidah, after assisting the King of Ouidah come to power by deposing his brother.

Francisco Félix de Souza was a merchant who engaged in palm oil, gold and slave-trading. He later migrated to what is now the African republic of Benin.[1][2] He has been called, "the greatest slave trader".[3]

Trading slaves from what was then the Dahomey region, he was known for his extravagance and reputably had at least 80 children with women in his harem.[4] De Sousa continued to market slaves after the trade was abolished in most jurisdictions.[3] He was apparently so trusted by the locals in Dahomey that he was awarded the status of a chieftain."[5] Although a Catholic, he practised the Vodun Religion, and even had his own Family shrine.[5] He was buried in Dahomey.[5]

De Sousa was a personal friend of Dahomeyan king Ghezo, who made Félix de Sousa chacha (viceroy) of Ouidah after he assisted the King in 1818 and brought him to power.[6]

Family and legacy[edit]

According to Edna Bay, De Sousa was "deeply influential as an intermediary between European and African cultures".[6] Today he is known as the founder of the Afro-Brazilian community in Ghana, Togo, Benin and Nigeria. The De Souza family has been very instrumental in fighting for the Independence of Togo and Benin.

Francisco Félix de Souza was the eighth generation grandson of Tomé de Sousa (1503-1579), who was the first governor-general of the Portuguese colony of Brazil from 1549-1553. He was a nobleman and soldier born in Rates, Póvoa de Varzim. De Sousa's grand father was born a noble and participated in military expeditions in Africa, fought the Moors and commanded the nau Conceição to Portuguese India, part of the armada of Fernão de Andrade. Francisco Félix de Souza was named after his father Francisco de Souza.

Augustino de Souza, who was Francisco Félix de Souza's grandson, was the first person to form a Political party in Togo. His great grand daughter is the wife of the present Benin President. Another grandson, Isidore de Souza (b. April 4, 1934, Ouidah, Dahomey, French West Africa [now Benin]—d. March 13, 1999, Grand Popo, Benin) was the first Roman Catholic archbishop of Cotonou from 1991; until his death in 1999, as well as a major force in his country’s transition to a multiparty democracy ).[7]

The protagonist of Bruce Chatwin's book The Viceroy of Ouidah, a white Brazilian slave trader, is said to be based upon Francisco Félix de Sousa.


  1. ^ David Ross, “The First Chacha of Whydah: Francisco Félix de Souza,” 1969
  2. ^ Alberto da Costa e Silva - Francisco Félix de Souza, mercador de escravos 2004
  3. ^ a b Ramer, Richard C. (February 2008), "Bulletin60PartXIX", Richard C. Ramer Old & Rare Books, retrieved 2008-08-26 
  4. ^ Thomas 2006, p. 695
  5. ^ a b c Jose C. Curto: Africa and The Americas: Interconnections During The Slave Trade (2005) p. 235
  6. ^ a b Bay 2008, p. 68
  7. ^