The Igbo Landing is a historic site at Dunbar Creek on St. Simons Island, Glynn County, Georgia, USA. It is the site of one of the largest mass suicides of enslaved people in history.
Historians say Igbo captives from modern-day Nigeria, purchased for an average of $100 each by slave merchants John Couper and Thomas Spalding, arrived in Savannah, Georgia, on the slave ship “The Wanderer in 1803.
The chained slaves were then reloaded and packed under the deck of a coastal vessel, the York, which would take them to St. Simons where they were to be resold. During the voyage, approximately 75 Igbo slaves rose in rebellion. They drowned their captors and caused the grounding of the ship in Dunbar Creek.
Led by their chief, the Africans then marched ashore, singing. At their chief’s direction, they walked into the marshy waters of Dunbar Creek, committing mass suicide.
The Igbo were known by planters and slave owners of the American South to be fiercely independent and more resistant to chattel slavery.
For centuries, some historians have cast doubt on the event, suggesting that the entire incident was more folklore than fact. But a post-1980 research verified the event using modern scientific techniques to reconstruct the episode and confirm the factual basis of the longstanding oral accounts.
The site was designated as a holy ground by the St. Simons African American community in September 2012. The Igbo Landing is also now a part of the curriculum for coastal Georgia schools.
The Igbo Landing has come to occupy great symbolic importance in local African American folklore. The mutiny and subsequent suicide by the Igbo people have been called the first freedom march in the history of the United States and local people claim that the Landing and surrounding marshes in Dunbar Creek were haunted by the souls of the dead Igbo slaves.
There are myths of “the water walking Africans”:
“Heard about the Ibo’s Landing? That’s the place where they bring the Ibos over in a slave ship and when they get here, they ain’t like it and so they all start singing and they march right down in the river to march back to Africa, but they ain’t able to get there. They gets drown,” one Floyd White, an elderly African-American interviewed by the Federal Writers Project in the 1930s, said.
So powerful is this story of resistance that it is often referred to in African American literature.
Writer Alex Haley recounts it in his high acclaimed book, Roots, and it was the basis for Nobel laureate, Toni Morrison’s, novel, Song of Solomon.
Contemporary artists, like Beyonce, have also depicted and paid homage to the Igbo Landing in their work.
In the recent wildly acclaimed Marvel comic film, Black Panther, Killmonger, played by actor Michael B Jordan, refers to this event, saying,
“Bury me in the ocean with my ancestors who jumped from ships, ’cause they knew death was better than bondage”. #HIstoryVille
Credits: Bridget Boakye, Face2FaceAfrica,June 12, 2018.