As a first generation American (born to two Nigerian immigrants) Njideka’s work has been inspired by the story of the Igbo Landing. Referred to by some as the first major freedom march in America's history, the story is one of rebellion by enslaved Africans (specifically, Nigerian Igbos) that chose to die rather than live a life of slavery.
In May 1803, the Igbo and other West African captives arrived in Savannah, Georgia, on the slave ship the Wanderer. They were purchased for an average of $100 each by slave merchants to be resold to plantations on nearby St. Simons Island. The chained slaves were packed under deck of a coastal vessel, the York, which would take them to St. Simons. During the voyage, approximately 75 enslaved Igbo rose in rebellion, took control of the ship, drowned their captors, and in the process caused the grounding of the ship in Dunbar Creek.
It is known only that the Igbos marched ashore, singing, led by their high chief. Then at his direction, they walked into the marshy waters of Dunbar Creek, committing mass suicide. Apparently only a subset of the 75 Igbo rebels drowned. Thirteen bodies were recovered, but others remained missing, and some may have survived the suicide episode, making the actual numbers of deaths uncertain.
Regardless of the numbers, the deaths signaled a powerful story of resistance as these captives overwhelmed their captors in a strange land, and many took their own lives rather than remain enslaved in the New World.
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