The Ibo Landing myth – there are two myths and one reality…
Ibo captives, African captives of the Ibo [ethnic group, also spelled “Igbo”], when they were brought to the New World, they refused to live in slavery. There are accounts of them having walked into the water, and then on top of the water all the way back to Africa, you know, rather than live in slavery in chains. There are also myths of them having flown from the water, flown all the way back to Africa. And then there is the story – the truth or the myth – of them walking into the water and drowning themselves in front of the captors.
I was able, in my research [for “Daughters of the Dust”], to read some of the accounts from the sailors who were on the ship when supposedly it happened, and a lot of the shipmates, the sailors or other crew members, they had nervous breakdowns watching this. Watching the Ibo men and women and children in shackles, walking into the water and holding themselves under the water until they in fact drowned.
And then interestingly enough, in my research, I found that almost every Sea Island has a little inlet, or a little area where the people say, “This is Ibo Landing. This is where it happened. This is where this thing really happened.” And so, why is it that on every little island – and there are so many places – people say, “This is actually Ibo Landing”? It’s because that message is so strong, so powerful, so sustaining to the tradition of resistance, by any means possible, that every Gullah community embraces this myth. So I learned that myth is very important in the struggle to maintain a sense of self and to move forward into the future.