Francisco Félix de Sousa

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Francisco Félix de Souza

Francisco Félix de Souza (4 October 1754 – 8 May 1849) was Brazilian born to Portuguese colonists and a slave trader in his own right who was deeply influential in the regional politics of pre-colonial West Africa (namely, current-day Nigeria, Benin, Ghana and Togo). He founded Afro-Brazilian communities in areas that are now part of those countries, and then went on to become the "chachá" of Ouidah (the slave trading hub for the region) a title that conferred no official powers but commanded local respect in the Kingdom of Dahomey, where, after being jailed by King Adandonzan of Dahomey, he helped his brother Ghezo ascend the throne in a coup d’etat. He became ‘Cha-cha’ to the new king, a curious phrase that has been explained as originating from his saying Ja Ja, a Portuguese phrase meaning something will be done right away.

His early years in Africa are well documented in a long article (in Portuguese) by Alberto Costa e Silva entitled "The Early Years of Francisco Féliz de Souza on the Slave Coast".[1]

Francisco Félix de Souza was a major slave trader and merchant who traded in palm oil, gold and slaves. He migrated from Brazil to what is now the African republic of Benin.[2][3] He has been called, "the greatest slave trader".[4]

Trading slaves from what was then the Dahomey region, he was known for his extravagance and was reputed to have had at least 80 children with women in his harem.[5] De Sousa continued to market slaves after the trade was abolished in most jurisdictions.[4] He was apparently so trusted by the locals in Dahomey that he was awarded the status of a chieftain."[6] Although a Catholic, he practiced the Vodun religion, which is consistent with his Afro-Brazilian background and even had his own family shrine.[6] He was buried in Dahomey.[6]

Family and legacy[edit]

According to Edna Bay, De Sousa was "deeply influential as an intermediary between European and African cultures".[7] 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.

According to the de Souza family, 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).[8]

The protagonist of Bruce Chatwin's book The Viceroy of Ouidah, is said to be based upon the life of Francisco Félix de Sousa.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ (África: Revista do Centro de Estudos Africanos. USP, S. Paulo, 22-23: 9-23, 1999/2000/2001)
  2. ^ David Ross, “The First Chacha of Whydah: Francisco Félix de Souza,” 1969
  3. ^ Alberto da Costa e Silva - Francisco Félix de Souza, mercador de escravos 2004
  4. ^ a b Ramer, Richard C. (February 2008), "Bulletin60PartXIX", Richard C. Ramer Old & Rare Books, retrieved 2008-08-26 
  5. ^ Thomas 2006, p. 695
  6. ^ a b c Jose C. Curto: Africa and The Americas: Interconnections During The Slave Trade (2005) p. 235
  7. ^ Bay 2008, p. 68
  8. ^ Ana Lucia Araujo, "Forgetting and Remembering the Atlantic Slave Trade: The Legacy of Brazilian Slave Merchant Francisco Félix de Souza," Crossing Memories: Slavery and African Diaspora, ed. Ana Lucia Araujo, Mariana P. Candido, Paul E. Lovejoy (Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press, 2011), 79-103.

References[edit]