Homosapiense has existed on this earth for only three hundred thousand years, but it would surprise you that black men were forcefully enslaved and relegated to so many vile and inhumane practices for over four hundred years. After the famous voyage from Christopher Columbus, Africa plummeted into a dark era of slavery. Africans were used like cattle, with two duties only, which were to work and procreate. Enslavers raided homes and villages and sold black men and women to the highest bidder. But at a time when slaves were simply seen as uneducated cattle, a group of slaves showed ingenuity, bravery, intelligence, and strength. These slaves for the first time, fought for their freedom, resisted their white slavers, and till today, they are known as a symbol of strength, freedom, and bravery. Although their story is one of tragedy, it shows the struggle of the black people and the fight for freedom even to the point of death. This is the story of my African people, this is the story of my Igbo people, this is the story of the Igbo landing.

In the year 1803 in a time when slavery was at its peak, and Nigeria was its Catalyst, a village in the Eastern part of Nigeria was raided by slavers. They took for themselves men and women, and even young children, and in an instant, their lives changed drastically. They went from being chiefs, renowned hunters, skilled healers, midwives, to being just a word, slaves. They were taken to Ikot Abasi, Akwa Ibom state, to the bridge of no return and before their eyes, they were branded and sold like cattle. Each of them where sold for 100 dollars per head to agents of yet another slaver called John Coupper and Thomas Spalding. These men had a plantation on the Georgia coast. They wanted slaves to do the work. They wouldn’t have to pay them for their work or worry too much about feeding them, they wouldn’t watch them go on strike cause of the working situations of their farms, they would be slaves, and they would work even till their death if asked to do so.

John Cupper and Thomas Spalding bought 75 slaves on that day and boarded them on the ship called the Wonderer. En route to the new world, these men and women must have suffered at the hands of the boat crew, who were known to brutally rape and abuse enslaved women, even little children. But they must have certainly witnessed the famous breaking the buck where the captain sought for and picked up the leader among the slaves. The person mostly a man could be a king, a chief priest, or a famous and valiant warrior. The captain will then seize this individual, bind him in chains, call his people to where he was bounded, and in front of them, this man of authority would be brutally raped. Sometimes it continues for days, by several crewmen. The idea behind this inhumane practice was to try to dissuade any heroic act among the slaves.

The Igbo slaves must have been so distraught at seeing how inhumane, their white captors were. They knew for certain that their life in the new world would be hell so they devised a plan. For the next several days that followed, they observed the men. They observed their routine, but most importantly, they checked and planned a way to get the keys to free the shackles they carried on them. It was easy for them to effectively plan this out since they spoke Igbo, and none of their captors could understand what they were saying.

They had sailed for several days through the Atlantic and were closer to the new world when suddenly, the Igbo slaves struck. Approximately 75 Igbo slaves rose in rebellion, and with a beautifully executed plan, they fought their captors. The resistance was quick and strong, and the whole crew fell into confusion. The men eventually freed themselves from their shackles, and these white slavers were shown the true strength of a black man. They fought and won, killing these men and throwing them overboard. They were free!!! These brave men and women must have celebrated their victory. But their victory was short-lived. What happened?

As they sailed, they noticed that they were still moving in the direction of the new world, and then they tried to turn the boat. They must have did, but they came to notice something else, they don’t know how to drive the boat. It was not the canoe they were used to. They could not sail on the wind and sea. Also, they had no idea how to go back to their homeland. All they saw was a large body of water from one end to the other end touching the sun. And they were sitting ducks because they knew that the route they were on was used by slavers and if they didn’t leave it, they might end up in a boat filled with another group of vile slavers. They were indeed in a dilemma.

Their boat sailed for days until it crashed on an island called Dunbar Creek on St. Simons Island, Glynn County, Georgia. The igbo slaves went down the boat, and after scanning the island, saw that they were still in trouble. With the structures on the island, they knew white slavers lived on it. As they stood on the shores of the island, suddenly a ship appeared, driving at full force to the island where they were. They knew for sure that once the ship got to where they were, they would go back to being slaves, and maybe suffer the same inhumane treatment they had earlier experienced for the rest of their lives. They must have cried and wailed at impending doom. Suddenly, one of them called to them in Igbo the individual was a man of authority, probably the chief priest. He spoke to them and after that, they began to sing, and as they sang, they marched into the roaring waves and sea. They didn’t try to fight the waves. They all marched into the river and drowned. They chose death rather than being in shackles for the rest of their lives.

From Afar on the island, a man named Rushworld Cane, watched as everything unfolded. He was the first to write the primary incident of the Igbo landing. He was an overseer of a nearby Pears Buttler plantation, and he witnessed the mass suicide of the Igbos. Both he and a certain Captain Peterson recovered many of the drowned bodies. But out of 75 slaves, they could only retrieve or find 13 bodies drowned.

 

After the story was told, it gradually took on an enormous symbolic importance in African American folklore The igbo landing was seen as the first freedom match among black people and it was the driving force for many slaves to begin fighting back for their freedom. Many in Dunbar Creek also believed that the death of the Igbos coursed the creek and it was hunted by the souls of Igbo slaves. This story was told by sailors and fishermen, and through this means, the story of these brave men and women did not die.

In September 2002 the St. Simons African American community organized a day of commemoration for the falling victims, the Igbo slaves that died. The event featured an array of activities including the teaching of Igbo history. After that, a procession and reallocation of the mass suicide took place. 75 attendees came from different countries including the United States, Nigeria, Brazil, and other parts of the world. They designated the place of the reallocation as a holy ground and also engaged in a ceremony to help the souls of the Igbos who lost their lives be at rest. To this day, the Igbo landing remains a thrilling example of resistance, and fight for freedom, and The igbo landing is till today, part of the curriculum for schools in Costa Georgia.

 

 

 

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