Dona Beatriz Kimpa Vita (~1684 – 2 July 1706), was a gifted healer and leader. Born into a prominent Kongolese family (as evidenced by her title “Dona”), she claimed to be the reincarnation of Saint Anthony and taught a reformed version of the Roman Catholic Church’s teachings espoused by Portuguese priests and missionaries. Her attempts to restore the ideal of Kongo as a unified Christian Kingdom were fueled by beliefs, radical at the time, such as one heaven for Europeans and Africans, and Jesus and other important biblical figures actually being African.
Her life and messages are often viewed through the lens of an antislavery movement, and precursors to modern African democracy movements. While you may never have heard of her, Dona Beatriz Kimpa Vita’s life and the movements she are tied to (including the Stono rebellion, one of the largest slave uprisings in the United States) are fascinating and well documented. Her story is important to understanding how and why slaves were able to find common beliefs with the Americans who controlled them.