Igbo Landing is a historic site at Dunbar Creek on St. Simons Island, Glynn County, Georgia. It was the setting of a mass suicide in 1803 by captive Igbo people who overtook the slave ship conveying them and refused to submit to slavery in the United States.
HISTORY OF IGBO LANDING
In May 1803, a shipload of captive West Africans, upon surviving the middle passage, were landed by U.S.-paid captors in Savannah by slave ship, to be auctioned off at one of the local slave markets. Among the enslaved passengers aboard the ship, were Igbo people from what is today known as Nigeria.
The Igbo people were known by plantation owners from Southern America to be fiercely independent and resistant to commercial slavery. The group of 75 enslaved Igbo people were bought by agents of John Couper and Thomas Spalding for forced labor on their plantations in St. Simons Island for $100 each.
The chained slaves were stuffed under the deck of a small vessel which was called The Schooner York to be shipped to the island . During this voyage, the Igbo slaves rose up in rebellion, taking control of the ship and drowning their captors, in the process causing the grounding of the vessel in Dunbar Creek at the site now locally known as Igbo Landing.
According to mythology and oral tradition, the slaves went ashore and subsequently,by instruction and direction of a high Igbo chief among them, walked in unison into the creek singing in the Igbo language “The Water Spirit brought us, the Water Spirit will take us home”.
This act sent a powerful message as it meant that the slaves had chosen the protection of their god Chukwu and death rather than slavery.
According to Roswell King, a white overseer on the nearby Butler Island Plantation, who wrote one of the few contemporary accounts of the incident surrounding the history of Igbo Landing, as soon as the Igbo landed on St. Simons Island they took to the swamp, dying by suicide by walking into Dunbar Creek.
In another account of the event, Roswell King was named as the person who recovered the bodies of the drowned. A letter describing the event written by Savannah slave dealer William Mein states that the Igbo walked into the marsh, where 10 to 12 drowned, while some were “salvaged” by bounty hunters who received $10 a head from Spalding and Couper.
According to some sources, the surviving slaves of the Igbo rebellion were taken to Cannon’s Point on St. Simons Island and Sapelo Island.
The events of Igbo Landing have had enduring symbolic importance in black history. The mutiny by the Igbo people has been referred to as the first “freedom march” in the history of America.
In September 2002, the St. Simons African-American Heritage Coalition organized a two-day commemoration with events related to Igbo history and a procession to the site. The 75 attendees came from other states, as well as Nigeria, and Belize and Haiti, where similar resistance had taken place. They gathered to designate the site as holy ground and give the souls rest. The account of the Igbo is now part of the curriculum for coastal Georgia schools
The site is still routinely visited by historians and tourists. The event of the Igbo Landing has recently been incorporated into the history curriculum of coastal Georgia schools.
By Oluwamayowa Akinyemi
Oluwamayowa Akinyemi is a digital and web content developer with experience in web content development and management as well as research and writing. He is an avid reader of random subject matters and a sucker for movies and video games. He is also passionate about youth empowerment and is a global affairs analyst and enthusiast.