The Captivating Story of “Igbo Landing” in St. Simons Islands Georgia USA

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The quest for Biafra independence has a historical significance for many people in the Eastern part of Nigeria and for the Igbos in particular. The Igbo republicanism and quest for freedom has historical origins dating back to the era of slave trade and colonialism. In Aba in the 50s Igbo women rose in protest against the British colonial administrators’ imposition of taxes. In some of the slave ships taking the  Igbo slaves to the new world some of the Igbo slaves rose in protest inside the slave ships. The slave masters had quick solution to such protest, they simply dumped the protesting shackled Igbo slaves overboard into the Atlantic ocean. Some of the slaves even had solutions to their captivity when they reached America, and one of the strongest evidence was the Igbo Landing event which took place in St Simons Island Georgia in the United States in May of 1803. The Igbo slaves were brought to St Simon’s island, and some account indicates that while their captors were away from the scene busy soliciting for buyers for more than 75 slaves, the Igbo slaves had their own solution to their captivity. They had an agreement among themselves that they would never serve the white man in America. They spoke in their native Igbo language what their strategy and solution would be. They,  men, women, and Children slaves decide to march back into the ocean and drown themselves rather than serving as slaves to their captors. Everyone of the Igbo slaves agreed and still in their shackles, they marched into the Atlantic ocean and drowned themselves. They left a message behind, that they were brought to America by the Atlantic, and through the Atlantic they will all go back home. Till today the natives of St Simmons Island Georgia say they still hear the strange voices of the Igbo slaves occasionally through the ocean drift winds and currents. Several years ago Igbo Kings and chiefs came all the way from Igboland to pay tribute to these Igbo slaves that perished in Dunbar creek of the coast of St. Simon’s island Ga in accordance to Igbo tradition.

Here are three different accounts of this historical incident for your reading enjoyment one of the stories was published by the Associated Press. Enjoy them!

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Igbo Landing Africa Business world

THE HEROES OF IGBO LANDING, GEORGIA, TO RETURN AT LAST TO THEIR BELOVED WATER SPIRIT IN IGBO LAND

FROM THE THRONE OF H.R.H EZE A. E. CHUKWUEMEKA-ERI
EZE-ORA THE 34TH AND AKAJI-OVO-IGBO
THE TRADITIONAL RULER OF ENUGWU AGULERI

“THE HEROES OF IGBO LANDING, GEORGIA, TO RETURN AT LAST TO THEIR BELOVED WATER SPIRIT IN IGBO LAND”

THE ANGUISHED CRY OF IGBOS FORCED INTO SLAVERY IN USA, WHO CHOSE MASS SUICIDE RATHER THAN SLAVERY, NOW TO BE ANSWERED IN IGBO LAND

“Orimiri Omambala bu anyi bia. Orimiri Omambala ka anyi ga ejina.”
(The Water Spirit Omambala brought us. The Water Spirit Omambala will carry us home.)

There have been many marches for freedom by Africans in the United States. We remember the Selma to Montgomery freedom march and probably the most celebrated freedom march in history, the historic March on Washington in 1963. However, one could submit that the FIRST and most significant freedom march ever undertaken by Africans in the United States occurred in May 1803. In United States history, an 1803 event on St. Simons Island, Georgia holds a special place as the first freedom march against enslavement by slavery-bound African captives on American soil and waters.

The Igbo had been captured in late 1802 in Igbo land by a notorious underworld clan from the Arochukwu community. Through arrangements made by a broker at a Gulf of Guinea seaport, they were delivered to a waiting sea vessel a slave ship called “The Wanderer” which brought them to Skidaway Island, just south of Savannah, Georgia. A Savannah slave importer sold about 75 of the Igbo arrivals to two well-known coastal planters, Thomas Spalding of Sapelo and John Couper of Cannon’s Point on St. Simons Island. The two men had been signers of the Georgia Constitution which had outlawed the importation of Africans five years earlier. Yet they paid about $500 each for the Igbo captives and arranged for their delivery on St. Simons Island.

 

They boarded the Igbo captives aboard the schooner York carrying the Igbo to its landing place on the bluff of Dunbar Creek in mid May 1803. It was there that the Igbo rebelled. In the confusion, Couper’s overseer and two sailors jumped overboard and drowned in their attempt to reach shore. Under the direction of a high Igbo official reportedly a woman who was among them, the Igbo went ashore, singing an Igbo hymn “Orimiri Omambala bu anyi bia. Orimiri Omambala ka anyi ga ejina.” (The Water Spirit Omambala brought us. The Water Spirit Omambala will carry us home.) and walked in unison into the creek. At least 10 of them drowned, accepting the protection of their God, Chukwu, and death over the alternative of slavery.

Below is the area where the Igbo Slaves marched back to the ocean and drowned themselves

Survivors were taken to Sapelo Island and Cannon’s Point on St. Simons Island where they passed on their recollections of the event to their children. Through the Igbo’s descendants in the Harrington community on St. Simons Island and the eye-witness accounts of the survivors, the story had become the legend of Igbo Landing. Information collected since 1980 in Africa and the United States, including a detailed account by the slave importer who had sold the Igbo, has verified the factual basis of the legend and its historical content. It is no longer a legend. It is a historical fact, a historical fact that has come full circle back to Igbo land. Even today there are ghost stories about unrequited Igbo spirits and recurring reports of unsubstantiated sounds and shadows in the marshes at Igbo Landing. The voices of our ancestors at Igbo Landing cries out still from those foreign waters to come home to Igbo land. The St. Simon’s Island event is not the only one of its kind involving Igbo slave mass suicide. There are reports of similar events in Haiti and in Belize. These acts of courage and ultimate defiance of slavery by the Igbo did give rise to a deep-seated fear of Igbos and their indomitable spirit among slavers. The ghost of Igbo Landing still haunts the Creeks of Georgia and in the days of slavery ‘Igbo’ was a word of pride for African slaves.

 

In September 2002, The St. Simons African American Heritage Coalition organized a two-day remembrance event for the heroes of Igbo Landing. Associated Press reported that African Americans and Africans from parts of North America and Nigeria came for the event. One of the attendees said he came from Nigeria to take their spirits home. For 199 years, the ghost of Igbo Landing still haunts St. Simons, Creek, Georgia, but not only the ghosts of Igbo Landing, but the ghosts of millions of men, women and children taken out of Africa and dehumanized by slavery and those born into slavery who never knew what it meant to be ‘free’, least of all to be ‘human’.

However, this has opened a door for the souls of these millions and their descendants in the African Diaspora to return home at last and to find peace through a descent “symbolic” burial. The idea for a symbolic burial for the ghosts of Igbo Landing and all other Africans dehumanized by slavery and buried in unmarked graves all over Europe and America, came as a result of the discovery of the Nigerian origin of the heroes of Igbo Landing by internationally acclaimed researcher and author, Professor Catherine Acholonu. Professor Acholonu found out that the native Igbo song which the heroes of Igbo landing were singing as they were drowning was a call to the Spirit of the Great Omambala River of Aguleri in Anambra State, Igbo land. She also asserts that the reason the ghosts of Igbo Landing have refused to rest is because Aguleri and the whole Eri clan is a Holy Land and a people set apart by the Righteous god Eri and by all gods of Igbo land, and must never be enslaved. Any outcast or slave who set foot on Eri land was automatically free. Eri brethren are the only people in Igbo land mandated by the gods of the land to cleanse abominations whether they are communal in nature or individual. Eri priest kings are the only priests with the sacred power from the Supreme Being and from the Earth Principle to restore spiritual order where spiritual disorder has set in as a result of abominations such as was occasioned by slavery of the African peoples.

Professor Acholonu has thus approached me and informed me of her disturbing discovery. The news shocked the natives of the Aguleri Holy Land to their marrows. I Eze A.E. Chukwuemeka Eri, Eze Ora 34th of Aguleri, the Aka Ji Ovo Igbo and the traditional ruler of Enugwu Aguleri, and my cabinet members all over Igbo Land and around the world would want to get to the root of the matter. Accordingly, I call on all Igbos to join hands with Eze Eri cabinet members and Professor Acholonu’s team to link up with the St. Simons African American Heritage Coalition, and relevant organizations in USA, South America and Europe to organize a mass home coming and symbolic burial at Aguleri Holy Land where Omambala River – the sacred River where the Mother of the GREAT NIGER river is located.

On behalf of H.R.H EZE A. E. CHUKWUEMEKA-ERI EZE-ORA THE 34TH

Sidney Louis Davis, Jr.
USA Director
The Ebo (Igbo) Landing ProjectIgbo Landing 2 Africa Business World

In United States history, an 1803 event on St. Simons Island, Ga. Holds a special place as a mass action against enslavement by slavery-bound African captives on American soil and waters.

The documentation of a rebellion and freedom march on the island (and of the accounts by the action’s enslaved survivors) establishes Ebo Landing as the only known Plymouth Rock for an ethnically identifiable African group in the United States.

The undertaking at Ebo Landing caused at least 13 persons to lose their lives by drowning, but it also gave historical life to the rumored freedom-loving peculiarity of this West African people, the Igbo, who lost 1 million persons to the intercontinental slave trade.

 The 19th Century mystery of what happened at Ebo Landing on a St. Simons Island creek has been solved.

For almost two centuries, an unreported mass drowning of “Ibos” in the creek has been claimed by African-American residents. As it turns out, a rebellion and freedom march at the creek site took place in May 1803, involving a group of Igbo from the ancient West African civilization of Igboland.

The solution of the Ebo Landing mystery removes it from the category of legend and adds another chapter in the history books of St. Simons Island.

Ebo Landing is located on Dunbar Creek, a tributary of the Frederica River that cuts through the marshes of Glynn.

The Igbo had been captured in the late 1802 in Igboland by a notorious underworld clan from the Arochukwu community. Through arrangements made by a broker at a Gulf of Guinea seaport, they were delivered to a waiting sea vessel which brought them to Skidaway Island, just south of Savannah, Ga.

A Savannah slave importer sold about 75 of the Igbo arrivals to two well-known coastal planters, Thomas Spalding of Sapelo and John Couper of Cannon’s Point on St. Simons Island.

The two men had been signers of the Georgia Constitution which had outlawed the importation of Africans five years earlier. They paid about $500 each for the Igbo and arranged for their delivery on St. Simons Island.

When the schooner York carrying the Igbo reached its landing place on the bluff of Dunbar Creek in mid May 1803, the Igbo reballed. In the confusion, Couper’s overseer and two sailors jumped overboard and drowned in their attempt to reach shore.

Under the direction of a high Igbo official who was among them, the Igbo went ashore, singing an Igbo hymn (“The Water Spirit brought. The Water Spirit will take us home. Orimiri Omambala bu anyi bia. Orimiri Omambala ka anyi ga ejina.”) and walked in unison into the creek. At least 10 of them drowned, accepting the protection of their God, Chukwu, and death over an alternative of slavery.

Survivors of the Igbo Stroke, as I have called the event, were taken to Sapelo Island and Cannon’s Point on St. Simons Island where they passed on their recollections of the event to their children.

Through the Igbo’s descendants in the in the Harrington community on St. Simons Island, the eye-witness accounts of the survivors had become the legend of Ebo Landing. Information collected since 1980 in Africa and the United States, including a detailed account by the slave importer who had sold the Igbo, has verified the factual basis of the legend and its historical content.

The mysterious presence of the Igbo at the beginning of the 19th Century became the namesake of three place names on St. Simons Island and an obscure African-American shout song, “Ebo, I call You.” It also generated an island ghost story about unrequited Igbo spirits and recurring reports of unsubstantiated sound and shadow in the marshes at Ebo Landing.

Ibo Landing to Africa 1993 Anna Belle Lee Washington (1924-2000/American) Oil on Canvas Collection of the Artist

Ibo Landing to Africa 1993 Anna Belle Lee Washington (1924-2000/American) Oil on Canvas Collection of the Artist

Slave legend draws people for two-day remembrance in coastal Georgia

The Associated Press
September 2, 2002

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. — In May 1803, 10 Nigerians captured and sent to work on coastal Georgia plantations chose to drown themselves in Dunbar Creek rather than live as slaves.

It is a legend known well by many islanders, keeping some from fishing or crabbing in the creek, fearing that the men continue to haunt the place.

Over the weekend, about 75 people from as far as Nigeria visited the creek to designate the area as holy ground and to give the freed slaves peace.

“They were souls forced here to die without a proper burial. It’s a step toward creating rest for us and our ancestors,” said Adonijah O. Ogbonnaya, who lives in Illinois.

The drowned slaves were from the southeast Nigerian tribe called Igbo or Ibo, which claims 40 million members worldwide.

The event, organized by the St. Simons African-American Heritage Coalition, included lessons on Igbo history and customs Friday and a Saturday procession to the drowning site.

Coastal Georgia schools have recently begun incorporating mention of the event in history classes. There is no historical marker at the site, which is next to a sewage treatment plant built in the 1940s.

The source most often quoted by locals on the subject is a 1989 book by H.A. Sieber. It has accounts of the drowning as told by the survivors’ descendants.

“It’s an oral tale that’s been told down — not written. But it did happen,” said Pat Morris, executive director of the Coastal Georgia Historical Society. “It’s one of those things that we’re always learning more about to tell the complete story. History isn’t static.”

According to Sieber’s book, as the men marched to their death, they sang in their native tongue: “The water brought us; the water will take us away.” Some claim that around midnight the stillness of the creek is disturbed by the clanging of chains and the men’s cries.

The men’s spirits have remained restless for 199 years because they never received a proper burial, said Chukwuemeka Onyesoh, who traveled from Nigeria to help give them one.

“I came here to evoke their spirits to take them back to Igboland,” he said.

Others traveled to the island from Haiti, Belize, New York, Chicago, Atlanta, Mississippi and Canada to remember the incident. Similar Igbo drownings occurred in Belize and Haiti.

The drowned men were among about 75 Igbo, including women and children, forced to leave Nigeria on ships bound for coastal Georgia, home to profitable cotton plantations. Descendants of the survivors settled in the island’s Harrington community.

igbo landing 5 Igbo Landing Freeing the souls Africa Business World
Dorothy Forbes, 81, and her husband have tried to preserve the historical site, leaving intact a rickety plank bridge that leads to the creek. They welcomed the tribesmen and historians this weekend and routinely welcome pilgrims to the site.

This weekend, elder tribesmen danced, sang and prayed in her yard under towering oaks and moss-laced cypress.

“That’s where they jumped ship,” Forbes said while staring from her back yard. “It’s hallowed ground.

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