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Tante Toya: Haiti’s own “Woman King” who trained Dessalines

BROOKLYN – Earlier this month, Haitian historian Bayyinah Bello made a stop here for another edition of the Sheroes book tour. This time, Bello discussed The Woman King, the new film about an all-woman army starring Viola Davis, and its similarities to Haiti’s own fierce female warrior, Agbaraya Toya — commonly called Tante Toya of Gran Toya.

Bello, a professor and founder of Fondasyon Felicitee, imparted knowledge about this warrior to a convivial crowd at Grandchamps restaurant. The Nov. 4 gathering was organized by Frantz Derenoncourt Jr., publisher of the Sheroes title under Thorobred Books. 

Toya is one of 10 heroines in Haitian history featured in Sheroes. Toya, according to Bello, was a very accomplished and respected warrior with the rank of general in the all-female army under the King of Dahomey, present-day Benin. She was captured and taken to Saint-Domingue to be sold as a slave. 


The Woman King film release reminds us of Haiti’s Tante Toya, the Dahomey warrior who trained Jean-Jacques Dessalines and took part in Haiti’s revolution.

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