Francisco Félix de Souza (4 October 1754 – 8 May 1849) was an Afro-Brazilian slave trader and merchant who traded in palm oil, gold and slaves in the 18th and early 19th century.
The Afro-Brazilian migrated from Brazil to what is now the African republic of Benin. He is regarded as one of the biggest Slave Merchants in the history of the Transatlantic Slave trade.
For many years de Souza sold slaves to Portuguese, French and British merchants. The slaves were usually men, women and children from rival tribes — gagged and jammed into boats bound for Brazil, Haiti and the United States.
Trading slaves from what was then the Dahomey region, he was known for his extravagance and was reputed to have had at least 80 children with women in his harem.
De Sousa continued to market slaves after the trade was abolished in most jurisdictions. He was apparently so trusted by the locals in Dahomey that he was awarded the status of a chieftain “chachá” of Ouidah by king Ghezo, (Ghezo conferred the title on him mostly because he helped him overthrow his brother Adandozan in a coup d’etat).
The trade largely stopped by the end of the 19th century, but Benin never fully confronted what had happened. The kingdoms that captured and sold slaves still exist today as tribal networks, and so do the groups that were raided. The descendants of slave merchants, like the de Souza family, remain among the nation’s most influential people.
Today De Sousa is known as a founding patriarch of the Afro-Brazilian communities in Ghana, Togo, Benin and Nigeria.
He is also regarded as the “father” of the city of Ouidah. There’s a museum devoted to his family, and a plaza in his name, there’s also a statue of him in the city. Every few decades, his descendants proudly bestow his nickname — “Chacha” — on a de Souza who is appointed the clan’s new patriarch.