Full story of Igbo slaves who drowned themselves in 1803 with their captors to avoid being sold in USA.

It was famously came to be known as the Igbo Landing. The story happened at Dunbar Creek. Dunbar Creek is located in St. Simon Island, Georgia, United States.

The Igbo people are an ethnic group located majorly in Southeastern Nigeria. They can also be found in many clusters around different part of the world.

The event is recorded in history to have occured in 1803, and is regarded as one of the highest recorded cases of mass drowning.

As was the norm within the slave trade period, the captured Igbo slaves from Nigeria alongside other West African slaves were transported to “Savannah” in Georgia on May, 1803. They were transported through a popular slave ship known as “Wanderer”.

The intention of the slave traders was to sell them to slave merchants Thomas Spalding and John Couper. The slave merchants will then take them to a nearby slave market, plantation or auction area and sell. One of those areas was St.Simons Island, located in Georgia.

After the captors made every arrangement, they chained the captured Igbo’s and other African’s, and packed them under the deck of the transport ship “York”, for onward delivery to target markets at St. Simons Island.

While on transit, it was reported that about 75 Igbo slaves started a rebellion against their captors. Afraid that they were going to be subjected to inhuman treatment as slaves, they took charge of the ship, drowning their captors in the process and ultimately stopped the merchant ship from moving any further from Dunbar Creek.

Noone knows what happened next after this act, but it is recorded that they marched on and went ashore, singing in high voices, led by a high chief. It was also noted that at his instruction, the freed slaves walked into the Dunbar Creek and committed mass suicide by drowning.

The primary account of this incident was written by Pierce Butler. Butler is a white overseer at a nearby plantation where the event happened. It was stated that Mr Butler alongside a Captain Patterson helped recover the most of the drowned bodies. They recovered about 13 bodies but the rest were missing. It is speculated though that many could have survived the drowning, thus the recovered number of bodies didn’t tell the exact story of what happened.

 The story surrounding the incident at Dunbar Creek proved a major a morale booster for other captives. Nothing could be quite heartwarming those days than the story of slaves overwhelming their slave masters and freeing themselves from their captives in a strange land. It was a great resistance success story that created a symbolic signal. It is also noted to have added to early African-American folklore back then and was later to be known as the “Igbo Landing”.

Though unverified, it is said the local people saw the incidence as a major blow to slavery and was acknowledged as one of the vital wins towards Africa’s freedom march. Also, though not verified, the locals of the Dunbar Creek area believed the water became haunted after the Igbo Landing mass suicide.

The story of Igbo Landing in Dunbar Creek was finally corroborated from oral accounts by the Federal Writers Project in the 1930’s.

Roswell King’s recorded accounts of the incident was later verified after 1980 with modern scientific research instruments and confirmed to have taken place.

A two-day commemoration event was organised by the African American community living in St.Simons in September 2002 for them. The event was also attended by 75 people from different places both within and outside US, including Nigeria, Brazil and Haiti. One of the activities recorded on the day was a procession march to the location of the Igbo Landing. 

 The Igbo Landing is currently included in the school curriculum of Georgia schools around the coastal regions!

It was also brought to television in the popular American TV show “American God’s” in the second episode of the shows first run, albeit with more flair and TV flicks!


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