The Igbo Landing Story
The Igbo landing story is a story of the mass suicide of enslaved Igbo people, who chose death over slavery. Shocking right, it will also surprise you to how many people don’t know the real version of this story.
Igbo Landing, also known as the “Igbo suicide story,” is a historical account of enslaved Igbo people. Who committed mass suicide by drowning themselves in St. Simons Island, Georgia, in 1803, rather than continue to live in slavery. The Igbo people thought that by committing mass suicide, they would be able to return to their country in the hereafter. Therefore it is remembered as an act of cultural preservation.
A shipload of captive West Africans, upon surviving the middle passage, were landed by U.S.-paid captors in Savannah. They were to be auctioned off at one of the local slave markets. The ship’s enslaved passengers included a number of Igbo people. The Igbo people were known by planters and slavers of the American South for being fiercely independent and resistant to chattel slavery.
75 enslaved Igbo people were bought by agents of John Couper and Thomas Spalding for forced labor on their plantations for $100 each.
The chained enslaved people were packed under the deck of a small vessel named ‘The Schooner York’ to be shipped to the island. During this journey, the Igbo slaves rose up in rebellion, taking control of the ship and drowning their captors. Thereby causing the grounding of the Morovia in Dunbar Creek now locally known as Igbo Landing.
They went ashore and subsequently, under the direction of a high Igbo chief among them, walked in unison into the creek singing in the Igbo language “ Mmụọ mmiri du anyi bịa, mmụọ mmiri ga-edu anyi laa” which means “The Water Spirit brought us, the Water Spirit will take us home”. They thereby accepted the protection of their God, “Chukwu” and death over the alternative of slavery.
The mass suicide in 1803 happened in Dunbar Creek on St. Simons Island, Glynn County Georgia. The Igbo people took control of their slave ship and refused to submit to slavery.
This story of resistance towards slavery has symbolic importance in African American folklore and literary history.
Beyonce Knowles has also depicted and paid homage to the Igbo Landing in her work “Love Drought”. The movie, Blank Panther refers to this as the first “freedom march” in the history of America.
The World’s Reaction to the Suicide Event
The Igbo Landing event in 1803 was not widely reported in the press at that time, so the reaction of the general public is unclear. Some researchers and historians consider it a watershed moment in the history of slavery and the African diaspora. For the Igbos, it was likely seen as a powerful act. An act of resistance and a demonstration of the depths of despair they had been driven to by the brutalities of slavery. The slave masters majorly saw it as a form of rebellion to be shut down.
This story is not well-known in world history. Only a few worldwide are aware of it. And it’s critical to keep bringing attention to the story and its relevance.