Mass Suicide at Igbo Landing
Groups of people can equally be moved to take their lives if they believe those lives are no longer worth living. The Igbo people of what is now modern Nigeria in West Africa were known to be independent and fiercely resistant to attempts to enslave them. But that did not stop slavers from capturing them and shipping them to the plantations of North America. But one group of Igbo foiled attempts to enslave them, choosing to drown themselves instead.
In 1803, a fresh shipload of West African slaves landed in Savannah, Georgia. Amongst them were seventy-five of the Igbo people. The crew auctioned the slaves on the docks, and agents representing John Couper and Thomas Spalding, plantation owners on St Simon’s Island, Georgia brought the Igbo slaves. Then, chained together, the slaves were loaded onto a small ship called either The York or The Morovia, according to different sources. The final leg of their journey had begun.
During the voyage, the slaves revolted and somehow managed to take control of the ship. They had drowned a number of their captors before the ship ran aground in the marshland of St Simon’s Island at a place then known as Dunbar Creek. What happened next is a mix of mythology and fact. Eyewitnesses, Roswell King, the overseer of a nearby plantation and William Mein who was called in to help recover the slaves, gave accounts of how the slaves took to the swamp as soon as they disembarked from the marooned ship and walked into the Dunbar creek to drown themselves.
But according to other versions, the Igbos went ashore under the guidance of their chief, not to kill themselves but to go home. They apparently walked into the Creek singing “The Water Spirit brought us; the Water Spirit will take us home.” Their god, however, did not oblige. While ten to twelve members of the seventy-five succeeded in escaping to death, the rest were ‘rescued’ by bounty hunters. The bounty hunters delivered the surviving slaves to their unwanted destiny and Dunbar Creek was thereafter known as Igbo landing.