African (Igbo) History





Oral information in our family that has been passed down for approximately 200 years is that two African sisters, were kidnapped in West Africa in late 1802 in Igboland by a noted underworld clan from the Arochukwu community and they began their slave journey to America with other Igbos.

Through arrangements made by a broker at Gulf of Guinea seaport the captured slaves were delivered to a waiting sea vessel which brought them to America. A Savannah slave importer sold about 75 of the Igbos to two well-known coastal planters, Thomas Spalding of Sapelo and John Couper of Cannon’s Point on St. Simon Island. The two men had been signers of the Georgia Constitution which had outlawed the import of Africans five years earlier. They had paid about $500.00 each for the Igbos and had arranged for their delivery on St. Simon Island.

The names of these two sisters have been lost. However, their endeavors remain with us. Because of the hardship of the voyage to America by ship, one of the sisters apparently became overwhelmed and committed suicide by jumping overboard. The second sister continued the journey, arriving in America at Skidaway Island, just south of Savannah, Georgia in mid-May of 1803.  The two sister’s weakness and strength continued to be evidenced in the lives of our family members some 200 years later.

When the schooner York carrying the Igbo reached the landing place on the bluff on Dunbar Creek in mid-May 1803, the Igbo rebelled against their captors. In the confusion, Couper’s overseer and two crew members jumped overboard and drowned in their attempt to reach shore.

Under the direction of an Igbo leader who was among the captives, the Igbos went ashore, singing an Igbo hymn, and walked in unison into the creek. According to author and researcher H.A. Sieber, at least ten of them drowned. Their last words were those of an Igbo hymn. “The water spirit brought us. The water spirit will take us home.” Survivors of the Igbo stroke were taken to Sapelo and Cannon’s Point, where they passed down their recollection of this event to their children.

Our descendant, our 6th generation grandmother, ended up living as a slave on the Thomas plantation near Savannah, Georgia. Approximately 125 slaves lived on the plantation that covered an area of 3,000 acres. Jonathan Thomas was the first owner, and after his death, the plantation passed onto his son, and then to his grandson, Edward J. Thomas, who was born in 1840.

According to Edward J. Thomas, it was very rare for the Thomas family to sell their slaves and very few were bought. Also, according to Edward J. Thomas, the slaves on the Thomas plantation had been reared their along with their masters and mistresses. Our 6th generation grandmother from Africa had a son named Benjamin, who was born in 1810. Benjamin had a wife on the plantation, which was named Aggie, who was born in 1820. We have been able to identify one of Benjamin and Aggies children, named Moses Thomas, born in 1856.

After 1870, Moses Thomas, our 4th generation grandfather, migrated to Claiborne Parish, Louisiana. There, on December 11, 1880, he married Georgia Butler. A Caddo Indian who was 11 years old at the time. When she was 12 years old, her first child, William Manning Thomas was born in 1881. Eight other children were born to this union.

On December 15, 2009, our family DNA project was completed through a company called African Ancestry: Troy C. Thomas, Jr., a 4th generation descendant of Moses Thomas and Georgia Butler, was used as a subject and we were informed by a certificate of authentication, that we share ancestry with the Igbo people in Nigeria. Benjamin Thomas, our 5th generation grandfather, who was born in 1810, and his father, share common ancestry with the Igbo people in Nigeria, and we became Igbos.

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