It was reported that 75 Nigerians drowned in water to reject oppression.
They reportedly walked into the creek in uniformly, singing and chanting in Igbo Language under the direction of someone who seemed to be like a high priest among them and buried themselves in the water, choosing death over being subjugated.
They were chained and put aboard a small ship to be transported to their destinations. During this voyage, they took control of the ship and grounded it, drowning their captors in the process.
They had been taken as slaves for labour on the plantations of John Couper and Thomas Spalding for 100 dollars each.
It happened at Dunbar Creek on St. Simons Island, Glynn County, Georgia.
They had survived ‘dance sessions’ with death and sickness during the middle passage.
The MIDDLE PASSAGE is the movement of captured Africans through the Atlantic Ocean after which they were sold in the Americas.
The middle passage is a popular story theme for a lot of Afro-American and Caribbean literature and movies, but the IGBO LANDING – name given to the suicide of these 75 Nigerians – is under-spotlighted in Nigeria, Africa and the world.
Death and sickness were common along the Middle Passage due to poor ventilation, limited space, poor diet and shortage of medical supplies that the slaves had to endure in the ship.
It was reported that over 50 revolts occurred on slave ships between 1699 and 1865. One of the most popular is the one led by Joseph Cinqué on a Spanish ship. This revolt eventually became the basis of a court case that went as far as the U.S Supreme court.
IGBO LANDING occurred when Igbo slaves who had taken control of their ship marched into the water and drowned. This eerie revolution is often described as the first major freedom march in America’s history.
It happened in 1908 and for over 200 years, this spine-chilling rejection of oppression was considered a myth and but research has verified that there is factual and historical basis to the event.
It was faintly captured in Beyonce’s Lemonade Album of 2016. In one of the tracks, ‘Love Drought’. In the video, Beyoncé marches into the water followed by a group of black women all in white but with black fabric in the shape of a cross on the front of their bodies. They march deeper and deeper into the water before pausing and raising their hands toward the sunset.
It is then combined with imagery of Beyoncé physically bound in ropes and resisting their pull, which directly evokes slavery, resistance, and the events at Igbo Landing.
Donovan Nelson, Jamaican-American artist depicts Igbo Landing in charcoal. It shows the Igbo slaves marching into a body of water with the water already up to their necks and their eyes closed.
This heroic yet sorrowful event has inspired and influenced a number of African-American artists. It has been told and retold in many other ways.
Nobel laureate Toni Morrison, used the myth of the flying Africans in her novel, ‘Song of Solomon’ (though many agree that the myth was a fabricated embellishment not a fact).
The legends-cum-myth associated with the Igbo Landing is that of the flying Africans. In some oral accounts, it was reported that the Africans had grown wings, transformed into vultures and flew straight back to Africa
Alex Haley retold the story in his book Roots. The Paule Marshall novel Praisesong for the Widow also was inspired by these events. They are retold from the context of the Gullah descendants in the feature film Daughters of the Dust (1993), directed by Julie Dash.
Other contemporary artists who allude to, or have integrated the complete tale of the Flying Africans in their work, include Joseph Zobel, Maryse Conde, Toni Cade Bambara, and Jamaica Kincaid.
These are stories that must not rot in the dustbin of history but find their ways into mainstream African literature, drama, songs and films.