Skip to main content

Ganga Zumba (?–1680)

Ganga Zumba (?–1680)

Ganga Zumba was a leader of the quilombo or Maroon state of Palmares. The little that historians know about him comes from accounts of the Luso-Brazilian campaigns against Palmares between 1675 and 1680. Ganga Zumba successfully resisted frequent colonial incursions with defensive strategies that included fortification, espionage, and relocation. Despite the continual threats, Palmares thrived through agriculture, manufacture, and trade. Ganga Zumba was probably a title rather than a proper name, derived from a religious official responsible for caring for ancestral spirits among the Imbangala of west central Africa. The Ganga Zumba known to history was possibly a native Palmarino of West African Allada descent.

During the 1670s Ganga Zumba governed a quilombo with at least nine mocambos, or settlements. Contemporary sources describe him as a king, with a palace, houses for his three wives and many children, and royal guards and officials. His fortified royal town of Macaco was on the Serra da Barriga, in present-day Alagoas. In 1677–1678 Palmares suffered devastating attacks by militia captain Fernão Carrilho. Two of Ganga Zumba's children were taken prisoner; another one was killed in battle. Ganga Zumba himself was wounded in one attack. In 1678 the beleaguered Maroon leader accepted terms of peace from the governor of Pernambuco that included relocating his people from Palmares to the Cucaú Valley, closer to the watchful eye of the colonial government. Ganga Zumba and several hundred followers soon moved to Cucaú, but the majority opposition faction, led by Palmares's war commander, Zumbi, preferred resistance to removal.

In 1680 Zumbi or his partisans poisoned Ganga Zumba and ignored an ultimatum to join Ganga Zumba's brother and successor, Ganga Zona, in Cucaú. The Cucaú settlement faded from history, and Palmares survived under Zumbi for fifteen more years. Ganga Zumba's concessions caused a rift in Palmares and failed to guarantee its survival. His image as a weak accommodationist contrasts with the elevation of Zumbi as the national hero of Black Brazilian resistance. Historians have argued, however, that Ganga Zumba's quest for peace was not out of line with the treaties by other maroon leaders in the Americas, as in Surinam and Jamaica. Under different circumstances, Ganga Zumba's choice might have secured the Maroon state's future.

See alsoPalmares; Quilombo; Zumbi.


Alves Filho, Ivan. Memorial dos Palmares. Rio de Janeiro: Xenon, 1988.

Anderson, Robert Nelson. "The Quilombo of Palmares: A New Overview of a Maroon State in Seventeenth-Century Brazil." Journal of Latin American Studies 28, no. 3 (October 1996): 545-566.

Carneiro, Edison. O quilombo dos Palmares, 1630–1695, 1st Brazilian edition, São Paulo: Editora Brasiliense, 1946; 2nd edition, São Paulo, Brazil: Companhia Editora Nacional, 1958. The first and second Brazilian editions reprint valuable primary sources.

                               Robert Nelson Anderson

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Ganga Zumba (?–1680)." Encyclopedia of Latin American History and Culture. . 14 Sep. 2019 <>.

"Ganga Zumba (?–1680)." Encyclopedia of Latin American History and Culture. . (September 14, 2019).

"Ganga Zumba (?–1680)." Encyclopedia of Latin American History and Culture. . Retrieved September 14, 2019 from

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

The Chicago Manual of Style

American Psychological Association

  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.