Black History: Special Delivery!!
Welcome To Black Mail…..where we bring you Black History: Special Delivery!
In 1803 one of the largest mass suicides of enslaved persons occurred on St. Simons Island in Glynn County, Georgia. Hailing from what is now Nigeria, enslaved Igbo captives were transported to the Georgia coast on the “Wanderer” slave ship. The average cost paid for each of the enslaved by slave merchants, John Couper and Thomas Spalding was approximately $100. The enslaved were to be resold to plantations on St. Simons Island.
During their transport to St. Simons Island, approximately 75 of the enslaved Igbo, launched a rebellion and took control of the ship that was transporting them. They drowned their captors which resulted in the grounding of the ship in Dunbar Creek. The order of events that took place following the ship running aground is uncertain. What is known, is that the enslaved Igbo, came ashore, singing, led by their high chief. At the chief’s command, the group of Igbo, walked into Dunbar Creek, committing mass suicide. A written account of the mass suicide was documented by Roswell King, a white overseer from the Pierce Butler Plantation. King, along with another man, recovered a large number of the drowned bodies. It appears that only a portion of the Igbo actually drowned. In total, only 13 bodies were recovered from Dunbar Creek; while others remained missing. It is believed that some may have actually survived; making the total number of deaths unclear.
These mass deaths represent a display of both tragedy and resistance; with the Igbo people’s valiant efforts to overtake their captors and then, taking their own lives rather than being enslaved. The area at Dunbar Creek where the mass deaths occurred is known as Igbo Landing. It remains a symbol of black history and folklore. It is also referred to by locals as being the site of the “first freedom march” in U.S. history. Many believed that the souls of the enslaved Igbo who died still inhabit the area. While some believe that the accuracy of the details surrounding the event to be in doubt, the accounts of Roswell King and others have been verified. There has also been additional verification research conducted in the 1980s using scientific event reconstruction techniques.
References to the Igbo mass suicide have also been made by black authors in literary works and film. Some of the references include African American author, Toni Morrison’s reference to the event in her book Song of Solomon. Alex Haley referenced this event in his book, “Roots” and more recently, the “Black Panther” film also referenced the event when “Kilmonger”, played by actor Michael B. Johnson refers to the Igbo event when he states, “Lay me to rest in the ocean with my ancestors who jumped from ships, ’cause they knew eternal rest was better than slavery”.
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