February 4, 2023

Igbo landing: How the Igbos refuse to submit to slavery and choose to drown

In Dunbar Creek on St. Simons Island, Glynn County, Georgia, there is a deeply historic site called Igbo Landing.

The site is so named because of the mass suicide of Igbo people captured as slaves in 1803.

The history started when about 100 Igbo landing people from what’s now known as Nigeria were captured, bounded and put on ship to be sold as slaves in plantations across the Americas.

The ship was grounded. Left with no clear direction of how to go back home and refusing to proceed to the land of the enslavers, all the slaves marched ashore singing, led by their high chief. Then at his order, they all committed suicide by walking into the marshy waters of Dunbar Creek. They chose to die rather than be a slave in an unknown land.

It is reported that over 50 mutinies occurred on slave ships between 1699 and 1865, the most popular of which is the one led by Joseph Cinqué on a Spanish ship.

This revolt eventually became the basis of a court case that went as far as the U.S Supreme court.While the Middle Passage has often been used as leitmotif in the retelling of African and Afro-American history, the Igbo Landing has been less used.

The Igbo Landing occurred when Igbo slaves who had taken control of their ship marched into the water and drowned at Dunbar Creek on St. Simons Island, Glynn County, Georgia.

After surviving the rigours of the Middle Passage, the 75 Igbo slaves who were bought for labour on the plantations of John Couper and Thomas Spalding for 100 dollars each.The slaves were chained and put aboard a small ship to be transported to their destinations. During this voyage, they took control of the ship and grounded it, drowning their captors in the process.

The sequence of actual events is unclear as most of the historical incidence was passed down by oral tradition.A common version is that the slaves, once ashore, walked into the creek in unison, singing and chanting in Igbo under the direction of someone who seemed to be like a high priest among them.

Today, the story stands as a cherised cultural history of bravery for millions of African-American.

The Igbo Landing story is now part of the curriculum for coastal Georgia schools, reminding young African-Americans that some of their ancestors were brave people who would rather die than live in oppression.

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