Black History Month: IGBO Landing

Essays

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.

Black History Month: Unlearning

Essays
Source: author’s own photo

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

Source: https://www.patreon.com/thegreatunlearn/posts

Day 1: The Middle Passage and Port Markers Project

What is it?
The Middle Passage refers to the horrific journey enslaved people were forced to undertake, crossing the Atlantic Ocean from Africa in brutal, inhuman conditions aboard ships bound for the “New World.” There are many accounts of this journey, which can only be described as terrible beyond imagination. For more than 350 years, from about 1525-1859, millions of captive peoples undertook this miserable passage.

“Though the great majority of Africans survived the crossing, more than one million died during the Middle Passage. Many men, women and children survivors stepped ashore weakened and often gravely ill. In the first three years ashore in Brazil and the Caribbean, the high death rates likely were due more to the victims’ experience on the ship and in Africa than to life in the Americas.”

http://slaveryandremembrance.org/articles/article/?id=A0032

The Port Markers Project was established in 2011 to

“honor the two million captive Africans who perished during the transatlantic crossing known as the Middle Passage and the ten million who survived to build the Americas.”

https://www.middlepassageproject.org/

Why is it important?
Remembering and commemorating the sacrifice and contribution of enslaved peoples has long been overlooked in the celebration of America’s history. Just one small detail about this period in history illustrates why it is crucial to unlearn the dominant narrative of our development as a nation:

According to Voyages: The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database, from 1710 until 1808, eighty-one ocean crossings brought 132,267 captive African children, women, and men to Charleston. That number has been projected upward to at least 200,000. Eventually Africans in bondage and their descendants outnumbered the European-descended population.

source

Virtually ignored and made invisible for centuries, these individuals deserve to be honored and held in remembrance for their contribution and sacrifice. Facing this history as a nation is also an important part of understanding how racial inequity has become a foundational part of modern American society. It is just one step im making visible a history that has been marginalized for far too long.

Learn more:

The Middle Passage:

http://slaveryandremembrance.org/articles/article/?id=A0032

The Port Makers Project:

https://www.middlepassageproject.org/

http://slaveryandremembrance.org/partners/partner/?id=P0041

Support:

https://www.middlepassageproject.org/2020/11/23/mpcpmp-2020-end-of-year-fundraiser/