Black History Month: IGBO Landing

I am participating in Black History Month using the resource provided by Rachel Cargle in her Patreon platform, The Great Unlearn.

Day 2: Igbo Landing

(CW: Suicide)

In 1803, a group of Igbo people who survived the Middle Passage, brought as captives from an area of Africa that is now Nigeria, committed mass suicide by walking into a swamp on the Georgia coast rather than submit to enslavement in the Americas.

The one written account of the tragedy comes from a white overseer of a nearby plantation on St. Simons. 

For many years, this account was considered a myth. White historians simply could not believe that the Igbo overthrew their white captors.

The narrative has been told via folklore in many different forms, including the tale that the Igbo people, already enslaved, simply put down their tools in the field one day, grew wings, and flew away.

I learned a great deal from researching this bit of history. When I was young I had a beloved book of folktales, “And The People Could Fly” by Virgnia Hamlton. Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon” also incorporates elements of this folklore.

I understand now that these allegorical stories are related to the mass suicide at Dunbar Creek, because the story of the Igbo Landing has been retold as the story of freedom, of escape from insurmountable hardship, as the only alternative to enslavement.

Research has of course proven this story to be true. Despite the sacred nature of the area, and despite vocal protest by the African American and Black community, a sewage treatment plant was built in the 1940s. Apparently a private land dispute prevents a memorial from being built on the site.

The lives lost at Igbo landing are not forgotten. In 2002, a ceremony was held to honor the dead Igbo people and assist them in returning to their ancestral homeland.

The erasure of black history is so much deeper than we realize because of that very erasure. The horrors of slavery are well-documented, but they are made more so by the constant disappearance of narratyive such as the true story of Igbo Landing. Again and again, it is not so much the history itself that is shocking, it is the intentional erasure and degradation of truth and of reality that remains problematic. Not only could the truth about this tragedy not be accepted, white people attempted to double erase it by degrading the very site with a sewage treatment plant. Not only was the area not honored and respected, it was actively desecrated. 

Learn more:

https://www.blackpast.org/african-american-history/igbo-landing-mass-suicide-1803/

https://www.georgiaencyclopedia.org/articles/history-archaeology/ebos-landing

http://www.glynncounty.com/History_and_Lore/Ebo_Landing/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Igbo_Landing

https://library.si.edu/donate/adopt-a-book/legacy-ibo-landing

Support:

You can donate to the education fund on this page which I relied on for my research:

https://www.blackpast.org/donate/

I could not find an active organization raising money to enact a memorial at this time. Please let me know if you are aware of one.