The 18th-century shipment of millions of Africans to the American continent who worked as slaves on plantations, while some were exchanged for essential commodities such as textiles, manufactured goods, rum, etc, had different dramatic episodes.
According to French historian Jean-Michel Deveau; the slave trade which lasted from the 16th to the 19th century, constitutes one of “the greatest tragedies in the history of humanity in terms of scale and duration”. The Igbo landing of 1803(also referred to as Ibo landing or Ebo landing} talks about the resistance of about 75 Igbo slaves “purchased” from the South Eastern part of Nigeria. Some historians recorded that these 75 Igbo captives were bought for an average of $100 each by two slave merchants; John Couper and Thomas Spalding. However, some historians believe that these captives were forcefully withdrawn from their homeland and then taken abroad. The captives arrived in America in an area dominated by slave trading activities known as Dunbar Creek, situated on the North end of St.Simons Island, Glynn County, Georgia.
On arriving at the location, it dawned on them that were about to be sold into slavery; thus they decided that they would rather die than become slaves in another mans land. They then marched towards the sea, led by their chief in unison singing in Igbo language “The water spirit brought us, the water spirit will take us home” walked into the marshy waters of Dunbar Creek, committing mass suicide (Professor Terri L. Snyder). According to an account, about 13 drowned bodies were recovered while some were “salvaged” by bounty hunters who received $10 from Spalding and Couper.
For more than two centuries, most authorities have made several attempts to discredit the truth about this event, claiming it’s just a “mere Afro-American folktale”, however research by Roswell King and other historians in a post-1980 research have confirmed the truth of this event and its historical content. This was achieved by using modern scientific techniques to reconstruct the episode.
Some local people around the Durban Creek area and some tourists’ claims that the Durban Creek is haunted by the souls of the dead Igbo slaves as they sometimes hear muffled groaning and clinking of chains from at midnight.
In a 2009 county survey, the Durban Creek was included as a historic resource and historians and tourists still visit the site till date. Also, the event has been incorporated into the history curriculum of Coastal Georgia Schools.
Various myths about this event have evolved over time, Floyd White, an elderly African American interviewed by the Federal Writers Project in the 1930s was recorded saying
“Heard about the Ibo’s landing? That’s the place where they bring the ibos over in a slave ship and when they get here, they ain’t like it and so they all start singing and they march right down in the river to march back to Africa, but they ain’t able to get there. They get drown.”
Apart from the above, another popular legend associated with the 1803 Igbo landing is the myth of the flying Africans. This particular legend claims that “The Africans grew wings or turned into vultures before flying back home to freedom in Africa. An African American known as Wallace Quarterman had these to say during an interview in 1930;
“Ain’t you heard about them? Well, at that time Mr. Blue he got down one morning with a long whip to whip them good…Anyway, he whipped them good and they got together and stuck that hoe in the field and then…..rose up in the sky and turned themselves into buzzards and flew right back to Africa…Everybody knows about them.”
The Durban Creek incident has inspired and influenced a number of African American artists who have paid homage to the event by retelling the story in their various productions. In recent Marvel film, Black Panther, Killmonger played by actor Michael B Jordan, referred to the 1803 Igbo landing event when he said:
“Bury me in the ocean with my ancestors who have jumped from ships cause they knew death was better than bondage.” Toni Morrison also used the myth of the flying Africans in her novel titled “Song Of Solomon”. Beyonce also, in the video of one of her songs “Love Drought” also referred to the Igbo landing of 1803.
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