Dona Beatriz Kimpa Vita and the Antonian Movement, 1684-1706
by Professor John K. Thornton (Author)
This book describes the Christian religious movement led by Dona Beatriz Kimpa Vita in the Kingdom of Kongo, from her birth in 1684 until her death, by burning at the stake, in 1706, only two years after the movement had started. Beatriz, a young woman, claimed to be possessed by Saint Anthony, argued that Jesus was a Kongolese, and criticized Italian Capuchin missionaries in her country for not supporting black saints. Thornton supplies background information on the Kingdom of Kongo, the development of Catholicism in Kongo since 1491, the nature and role of local warfare in the Atlantic slave trade, and contemporary everyday life, as well as sketching the lives of some local personalities.
"Thornton's study of Beatriz Kimpa Vita is a new departure in slave studies. African history is propelled to the fore; Thornton's approach taps the potential of the Afro-centric vision."
- Paul Lovejoy, York University
"Perhaps the greatest of the many achievements of Thornton's book is its depiction of Africans in very much the same terms that he, and most other European or American writers, would use to describe their own pasts. With that, Thornton bridges the gap between 'us' and 'them' that still lurks subtly in much scholarship on Africa. This is accordingly a book for non-specialists in many fields--and that is not to say that Africanists will not also find it fascinating."
- Joseph C. Miller, University of Virginia
"...a most impressive study."
- Richard Gray, The Catholic Historical Review
"John K. Thornton's study of political and religious turmoil in the Kongo kingdom at the close of the seventeenth century will appeal to several audiences..."
- Wyatt MacGaffey, The International History Review
"...this is a very good publication, which portrays in a very lively way a society and conflicts hidden for almost three centuries. The narrative has a certain dramatic, almost Shakespearean tension, which is likely to engross the reader's attention."
- International Journal of African Historical Studies
"Thornton presents a fascinating and comprehensive account of the Christian movement led by Donna Beatriz Kimpa Vita in the Kingdom of the Kongo, from her birth in 1684 until her death....This study relies upon an impressive body of sources."
- Journal of Women's History
"Altogether this is a masterly reconstruction of events in late seventeenth-century Kongo by an experienced scholar who for over twenty years has published on many aspects of Kongo history from politics top demography, from church history to family history, and from the slave trade to the diaspora. Thornton's acquaintance with a host of difficult sources is well displayed."
- American Historical Review
"The Kongolese Saint Anthony...reflects a superb mastery of the rich multilayered texture of the Kongolese Christian experience....immensely pleasing....the unexpected twists and subplots provide ample footholds for the most tentative reader....the book constitutes a valuable academic resource. That it makes a pleasant read is surely a welcome bonus."
- Church History Review
"I know of no other book that recreates the history of precolonial African society in such a vivid and compelling way. It should become standard reading in courses on African history and diaspora history."
- Robert Harms, Yale University
John K. Thornton is Professor of African American Studies and History at Boston University. He is also W.E.B. DuBois Fellow at Harvard University and formerly Carter Woodson Fellow at the University of Virginia, as well as Professor of History at Millersville University and Allegheny College. He is a former lecturer at the University of Zambia. He is author of The Kingdom of Kongo: Civil War and Transition, 1641–1718 (1983), Africa and Africans in the Making of the Atlantic World, 1400–1800 (2nd edition, 1998), The Kongolese Saint Anthony: Dona Beatriz Kimpa Vita and the Antonian Movement, 1684–1706 (1998), and Warfare in Atlantic Africa (1999). He has published in, among other journals, the Journal of African History, History in Africa, Cahiers d’etudes africaines, William and Mary Quarterly, American Historical Review, The Americas, and the International Journal of African Historical Studies.