Ibo Landing Historic Landmark Is Part of Local History | Local News

About 100 people gathered at the grounds of the old stables on St. Simons Island on Wednesday for the dedication of the Ibo Landing historic marker, an occasion marked by emotional speeches from key players in the making of the plaque.

But perhaps the most poignant moment began after the prepared tributes when a grizzled African-American man began singing a gospel standard from his seat in the audience under a shade tree.

“Oh, Freedom; Oh, freedom; Oh freedom,” St. Simons Islander Chip Wilson intoned in his sweet baritone.

“Oh freedom upon me,” sang many African Americans in the audience, instinctively joining the chorus.

“And before I am a slave,” the subdued chorus echoed melodically above the assembled people, “I shall be buried in my grave and return to my Lord and be free.”

This day had been long in coming. Some would say it took over 200 years of preparation. And Wilson’s impromptu conclusion to the ceremony served as a fitting summary of a marker that finally recognizes the ultimate sacrifice the Igbo people have made in the name of freedom over slavery.

The historical marker that recognizes the Ibo Landing event in May 1803 on St. Simons Island near Dunbar Creek is the result of the combined efforts of several people and organizations. Prominent among them were the young men and women of the Glynn Academy Ethnology Club, who paved the way for adults to make this marker a reality.

It’s the first of many historic markers on St. Simons Island that recognizes a piece of the past from a black perspective, noted the Coastal Georgia Historical Society (CGHS), which guided high school students through their process. application to the Georgia Historical Society. Company.

The St. Simons African American Heritage Coalition helped with a “vital perspective” in formulating the marker, said Sherri Jones, executive director of CGHS. And the St. Simons Land Trust provided the space on its Old Stables green space for the plaque placement.

The marker is at 15 Market St., on a service road that runs along the grounds of the old stables in the mall near the intersection of Frederica Road and Sea Island Road.

“People have always been fascinated by the history of Ibo Landing,” Jones told the audience, who represented a balanced cross section of the Golden Isles. “It’s a gripping story, it’s a tragic story. And it’s one that needs to be recognized… And let young people see all the possibilities, not just the obstacles.

Ethnology club members were moved by the Ibo Landing story and troubled by the lack of official recognition, said sophomore Cash Roberson.

“The whole club is devoted to the study of cultures,” Roberson said. “We have a lot of history here, and a lot of it is overlooked. And it was a way to draw attention to this event.

The students’ Ibo Landing marker application was among only five approved out of 25 statewide submissions in 2021, said Elyse Butler of the Georgia Historical Society.

“It’s nice to play a part in preserving something a lot of people didn’t know and to share this important piece of history,” said Ashley Ramirez, vice-president of the ethnology club and sophomore. of the GA.

The story of Ibo Landing has long been part of the historic oral tradition of local African American and Gullah Geechee communities. Although it contains elements of myth, the incident is based on historical facts.

Captured members of the Igbo tribe in present-day Nigeria rebelled against their captors on the ship Morovia while in transit from a slave market in Savannah to plantations on St. Simons Island. The ship nevertheless landed at Dunbar Creek off the Frederica River, where many of the tribesmen facing their would-be owners walked as one in chains through the water. “The water brought us here, the water will take us away,” they chanted.

Witness Roswell King, a white plantation overseer, reported that the Igbo “went into the swamp and drowned”. While many were rescued, between 10 and 13 members of the group drowned. The Igbo spiritual tradition holds that they simply returned home, entering the waters that carried them away.

Scholars and others say the Ibo Landing event is the origin of the mythical “Flying African” legend of slaves taking flight to rise above their bondage and oppression.

The tribe spells its name Igbo, but local tradition has adopted the phonetic spelling of Ibo and Ebo over the centuries, as shown on the historical marker.

Amy Roberts, executive director of the St. Simons African American Heritage Coalition, participated in the unveiling of the marker alongside GA Ethnology Club president Rachael Walters. She noted that the Ibo Landing tradition is recognized around the world for its powerful message about the priceless value of freedom.

“I’ve been taking people to Ibo Landing for many years,” she said, referring to a spot on private property off Atlantic Avenue on Dunbar Creek where the event is thought to be. took place. “And I’m talking about people all over the world. Not just Africans, but people from Germany, England, China and also from Africa. You name it. It is important for my community, it is important for your community and for other communities around the world that this marker is placed here.

Many in attendance noted that the tragic story of Ibo Landing has a redeeming contemporary lesson.

“I came for the historical side,” said Shawn Slay of Brunswick. “And I love knowing that a marker will be placed here to understand the past in hopes of a better future.”

John and Deborah Smith are longtime Ohio snowbirds who recently became permanent St. Simons Islanders.

“Nowadays it’s just good to see people coming together from their respective backgrounds,” John Smith said after shaking hands with one of the young members of the ethnology club. “It’s so positive to see him.”

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