The National Day of Benin is a federal holiday observed on August 1 in the Republic of Benin. The holiday is celebrated annually to commemorate Benin receiving independence from the French colonial powers and becoming an independent nation-state.
History of National Day of Benin
Benin, a country in West Africa, is known for its rich culture and traditions. Before the slave trade picked up, the country comprised three large areas with distinct peoples who had their own unique cultures and practices.
The major city-states were along the coast — the Aja, Yoruba, and Gbe people lived along the coastline. Meanwhile, several tribes lived inland, including the Bariba, Mahi, Kabye, and Gedevi peoples. By 1600, the Kingdom of Dahomey was founded by the Fon people on the Abomey plateau, and soon it took over areas of the coast.
The Dahomey culture emphasized military preparation, with young boys apprenticed to soldiers and taught the kingdom’s military customs until they could join the army. The kings took war captives, sold them to transatlantic slave traders, and profited from their enslavement.
However, following the ban on the slave trade in 1807, the Kingdom of Dahomey began to lose power. The French colonialists in the region had already taken control of much of Western Africa and were also able to take over Dahomey in 1894. The area was incorporated into French West Africa and called French Dahomey.
Under French rule, Dahomey’s economy started to spiral downwards, and with the collapse of the colonial economy after World War II, the discontent among the people grew. Talks were held with France, which was under enormous debt due to WWII, about independence. After several sessions, France granted the Benin people independence on August 1, 1960.
National Day of Benin timeline
The region now known as Benin is populated by the Yoruba, Aja, and Gbe peoples.
The Fon people establish the Kingdom of Dahomey and then take over the coastline.
The French colonial powers take over the failing Kingdom of Dahomey and incorporate it into French West Africa.
Hubert Maga leads the politicians and people of Dahomey into securing independence from the French.
National Day of Benin FAQs
Did Benin fight for independence?
Benin fought for independence from the French colonizers through political means.
Why did Dahomey change to Benin?
The name of the state was changed from Dahomey to Benin in honor of the ancient kingdom of Benin in Nigeria.
Why is French spoken in Benin?
French is the official language of Benin because it was the language the Benin people used for over fifty years under French rule.
How to Observe National Day of Benin
Share information about Benin
You can learn more about Benin and its people on this holiday. Uncover Benin’s rich culture and history and share the information with your friends and family.
Watch the celebrations
The National Day of Benin is celebrated with boisterous parades and speeches. Watch the celebrations online or head to Benin to watch them live.
Host a party
Host a party for your friends from Benin or encourage them to host one at their homes. Make sure your food, music, and decor are on point.
5 Facts About Benin That Will Blow Your Mind
It was known as ‘Black Sparta’
The emphasis on military preparation in the Kingdom of Dahomey led it to be known as “Black Sparta.”
Dahomey inspired the Black Panther comics
The Dora Milaje in the black panther comics were inspired by the Ahosi — elite female soldier corps of the Dahomey Kingdom.
It’s the birthplace of Voodoo
Dahomey is the birthplace of the Voodoo religion, which is the official religion of modern Benin.
The kings earned through the slave trade
In the 1750s, the kings were earning 250,000 pounds off the transatlantic slave trade.
Capital was built for the slave trade
The capital city of Benin was called ‘Porto Novo,’ or the ‘New Port,’ and it was built to facilitate the slave trade.
Why National Day of Benin is Important
It has a grand history
Benin’s history shows the devastating consequences of slavery and the protracted struggle it took to gain independence. There are many lessons to learn from the brave Benin people.
It celebrates the birthplace of Voodoo
As the birthplace of Voodoo and the Black Panther, Benin is a country with a rich culture. The National Day of Benin allows us to celebrate Benin with all its quirks.
It allows us to commemorate the people
The Benin people were courageous, brave, and determined, and it is because of their bravery that Benin stands as a country. The National Day of Benin helps us commemorate those who struggled and lost their lives for the hope of independence.
National Day of Benin dates