When Your Freedom is Threatened, This is How You Fight Back

Battle of Isandhlwana/Fripp, Charles Edwin/Wikimedia/Public Domain

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British colonizers were up to no good in South Africa in 1879. They had a scheme to unify the colonized parts of the country under British rule. The only roadblock to their devious plan? The independent state of Zulu and its valiant king, Cetshawayo.

In an effort to instigate a war with the Kingdom of Zululand, the High Commissioner of the British imperial government pulled dirty tricks to tarnish the character of King Cetshawayo, hoping this would provoke him to spark a war with the British. From forcing his underlings to send critical messages, to demanding reparations for border infractions, there was no end to the stunts the commissioner would pull. But the diplomatic king wouldn’t be provoked.

Finally, the commissioner resorted to a final trick: he sent an ultimatum to King Cetshawayo. “Submit to an unnecessary trial or go to war,” it essentially read.

There was no way, however, Cetshawayo could accept the ultimatum - submission might as well mean willfully forfeiting the independence of his nation! So King Cetshawayo refused, and the war began.

As 1,700 British soldiers, carrying technologically advanced guns and weaponry, invaded Zululand on January 29, they were in for quite a greeting - 24,000 Zulu warriors stood armed and ready! For 11 days, the battle waged on. And after it was over, only 60 British agitators survived.

The British loss at the Battle of Isandlwana would go down in their history books as the worst defeat against an indigenous group of people. But what do you expect when you underestimate the strength, intelligence, and power of Black people? The Zulu nation went to bat to protect their land and community - and they won with unity in numbers, the BEST kind of victory against European invaders.

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