How African Spiritualist Kimpa Vita Inspired This US Rebellion

drawing of kimpa vita
Briona Lamback
November 20, 2023

On a Sunday morning in September 1739, dew hung in the air as they gathered near South Carolina’s Stono River. “Lukangu! Lukangu!” they chanted through the streets, demanding salvation before taking guns and powder, burning houses, recruiting others, and killing oppressors along the way. 

This rebellion was no accident; it was a divine calling.

Back home in Kongo, the rebels practiced Catholicism for decades, and Dona’ Kimpa Vita’ Beatriz was one of their biggest influences. She was a praying woman and medium who caused a stir by claiming herself to be a reincarnation of Saint Anthony. 

One thing Kimpa Vita wasn’t folding on was that Jesus and Mary were Black Kongolese.

Italian missionaries executed Kimpa Vita for her “mysticism.” Still, 33 years later, the Stono Rebellion proved that the power of her spiritual teachings and love for her Blackness never left Kongolese hearts. It was Vita’s teachings about the Virgin Mary as an essential and empowering protector that encouraged them to venerate Mary in their rebellion.

Preparation had already begun the night before, on Saturday, which in Kongo was dedicated to Mary. The Afro-Catholics might’ve considered Mary’s Feast of the Nativity, celebrated on September 8th, a blessing to rebel.

Like the Stono Rebellion leaders who leaned on their faith and ancestral ways, we must understand both can co-exist in our fight for liberation. Our spirits are grounded in our fight.

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