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This was an attempt to get colonial control by possessing the Ark of the Covenant of the Ashanti people. With the close of the slave trade, the Ashanti found themselves at a disadvantage with no other form of export. Slave trading also caused neglect of basic demands such as agriculture and cloth manufacturing. Severely weakened, they soon found themselves the targets of their former European allies. Ironically with reconstruction occurring in America, the British were trying to take possession of the Gold Coast, now known as Ghana.
The proud warrior people known as the Ashanti inhabited this region. The British began their move by exiling Ashanti’s King Premph in 1896. When this did not break the peoples’ spirit, they demanded the supreme symbol of the Ashanti people: the Golden Stool. On March 28, 1900, the British Governor called a meeting of all the kings in and around the Ashanti City of Kumasi, ordering them to surrender the Golden Stool. Deeply insulted, the Ashanti silently left the meeting and went home to prepare for war. Nana (Queen-Mother) Yaa Asantewa became the inspiring force behind the Ashanti. This began with an unforgettably stinging speech.
She said, "Is it true that the bravery of the Ashanti is no more? If you men of Ashanti will not go forward, then we will. We, the women, will. I shall call upon my fellow women. We will fight the white men. We will fight till the last of us falls in the battlefields." The speech so moved the chiefs that they once swore the Great Oath of Ashanti to fight the British until the Asantehene King Premph was set free from exile. Yaa Asantewa began by having her troops cut telegraph wires and blocking routes to and from Kumasi, where the British had a fort. For several months the Queen Mother led the Ashanti in combat, keeping the British pinned down.
After sending 1,400 soldiers to put down the rebellion, the British captured Yaa Asantew and other Ashanti leaders. All were exiled. Yaa Asantewa died in 1923, far from her homeland. Her bravery and name are still remembered by those who refer to one of the last great battles for Ashanti independence, and the last war fought in Black Africa led by a woman.