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Igbo American
Igbo nke Amerika
William Drew Robeson (1845-1918).jpgPaul Robeson 1942.jpgMaria Louisa Bustill (1853-1904).jpg
Blyden E W 3c35638r.jpgBlair Underwood at the 41st Emmy Awards cropped.jpgForest Whitaker.jpg
W.D. RobesonPaul Robeson[1]M.L. Bustill
E.W. Blyden[2]Blair Underwood[3]F. Whitaker[4]
Total population
Regions with significant populations
Throughout the entire South (especially Virginia) as well as the New York, Philadelphia, Boston, Chicago, Houston municipal areas, and Puerto Rico.

American English, African American Vernacular English, Igbo



Related ethnic groups

Igbo people, African Americans

Igbo Americans, or Americans of Igbo ancestry, (Igbo: Igbo nke Amerika) are citizens of the United States who can claim whole or significant ancestry from the Igbo people of southeastern Nigeria. The vast majority of Igbo Americans have arrived in America by force through the Atlantic slave trade. Many African Americans of significant Igbo ancestry do not know that they have this ancestry. The Igbo were one of the common ethnic groups found amongst enslaved Africans in the United States. Another way the Igbo have arrived in America is through migration, one of the reasons being Nigeria's poor infrastructure and the effects of the Nigerian-Biafran War.




Atlantic slave trade

The Igbo were affected heavily by the Atlantic slave trade. Igbo slaves were known for being rebellious, having a high count of suicide in defiance of slavery.[5][6][7] In the United States the Igbo were found the most common in the state of Maryland (coincidentally where there is a predominant population of recent Igbo immigrants)[8] and Virginia,[9] so much so that some historians have denominated colonial Virginia as “Igbo land.”[9]

Slave notice from Williamsburg, Virginia for a runaway "Ibo Negro"

With a total of 37,000 Africans that arrived in Virginia from Calabar in the 1700s, 30,000 were Igbo according to Douglas B. Chambers.[9] The Frontier Culture Museum of Virginia estimates around 38% of captives taken to Virginia were from the Bight of Biafra.[10] Igbo peoples constituted the majority of enslaved Africans in Maryland.[9] Chambers has been quoted says "My research suggests that perhaps 60 percent of black Americans have at least one Igbo ancestor..."[11]

Ebo Landing

Ebo Landing is located in St. Simons, Georgia. It is said that the chanting of Igbo people can still be heard at the mouth of Dunbar Creek. The creek is near Sea Island on the southeast coast of St. Simon Island. In the 1850s a group of chained enslaved Igbo people were being held on the beach. They had just arrived to America on board the slave ship, The Wanderer, which crashed when the vessel ran ashore. While being held on the beach, the slaves made a suicide pact. Instead of living the rest of their lives in chains, they ran, chained to each other, into the water and drowned. The site is supposedly haunted by their ghosts. People have reported hearing the sound of irons chattering as the slaves ran from the beach into the water.[12][13]

Igbo Ukwu vessel.jpg

(United States)

17 Stones Cemetery

17 Stones Cemetery, located in the George Washington National Forest (on the top of Big Piney Mountain), was (re)discovered by a team of park rangers headed by Rachel Malcolm-Woods along with Africanist historians and archaeologists in March 2003.[14] The unnamed cemetery, at the time, was later named by Malcom-Woods as "17 Stones Cemetery". The grave markers on the stones have evidence of Igbo traditions which have been in Virginia since the 18th century. The grave markers, made from high quality blue slate, possess Igbo ideograms (which have been described for years as "strange marks"),[15] which have been creolized, from the Nsibidi script, by enslaved people from the Bight of Biafra brought to Amherst County.[16] The stones may have been engraved between the late 18th and early 19th century, the height of the Igbo diaspora in Virginia when approximately 70 percent of the black population was Igbo.[17]

The language spread of Kru, Igbo and Yoruba in the United States according to [18] U. S. Census 2000.

Igbo village in Virginia

There are plans underway by the Frontier Culture Museum of Virginia to build an Igbo village to acknowledge the prevalence of the Igbo in 19th century Virginia.[10]

Genealogy tracing

In the 2003 PBS program African American Lives, Bishop T.D. Jakes had his DNA analyzed; his Y chromosome showed that he is descended from the Igbo.[19] American actors Forest Whitaker and Blair Underwood have traced their genealogy back to the Igbo people.[20][21]

Notable Americans of Igbo ancestry

Further reading


  1. ^ The Undiscovered Paul Robeson, An Artist's Journey, 1898–1939. ISBN 0-47124-265-9. 
  2. ^ "Edward Wilmot Blyden". Microsoft Encarta Online Encyclopedia 2008. Archived from the original on 2009-10-31. 
  3. ^ Underwood, Blair. "Testimonials". Retrieved 2008-11-23. 
  4. ^ "Inside the Actors Studio: Forest Whitaker (2006)". James Lipton (Himself - Host), Forest Whitaker (Himself). Inside the Actors Studio. Bravomedia. Bravotv, New York City, New York, USA. 11 December 2006. Transcript.
  5. ^ Lovejoy, Paul E. (2003). Trans-Atlantic Dimensions of Ethnicity in the African Diaspora. Continuum International Publishing Group. pp. 289. ISBN 0-826-44907-7. 
  6. ^ Isichei, Elizabeth Allo (2002). Voices of the Poor in Africa. Boydell & Brewer. pp. 287. 
  7. ^ Rucker, Walter C. (2006). The River Flows on: Black Resistance, Culture, and Identity Formation in Early America. LSU Press. pp. 288. ISBN 0-807-13109-1. 
  8. ^ "Languages in America". U.S.ENGLISH Foundation, Inc. Retrieved 2009-05-08. 
  9. ^ a b c d Chambers, Douglas B. (March 1, 2005). Murder at Montpelier: Igbo Africans in Virginia. University Press of Mississippi. p. 23. ISBN 1-578-06706-5. 
  10. ^ a b "West Africa: Why the Igbo?". Frontier Culture Museum of Virginia. Retrieved 2009-05-02. 
  11. ^ "Southern Miss history professor made chief in Nigerian royal lineage". University of Southern Mississippi. April 15, 2005. Retrieved 2009-05-02. 
  12. ^ "Haunted places in Georgia". 
  13. ^ "Ghosts of Ebo Landing". St. Simons Island, GA 31522. 
  14. ^ "17 Stones Cemetery / George Washington National Forest". Virginia African American Heritage Program. Retrieved 2009-02-02. 
  15. ^ The Folk Art Messenger Volume 17, No. 1. 2004. 
  16. ^ Read more
  17. ^ African Ideograms in African American Cemeteries
  18. ^ "Census 2000 Gateway". Retrieved 2008-11-19. 
  19. ^ West Virginia Wesleyan College - "Jakes was born in South Charleston, West Virginia on June 9, 1957."
  20. ^ 9th paragraph "I wanted to understand what it was like to be Ugandan, even though my roots are in Nigeria and other parts of West Africa.”
  21. ^ "A welcome surprise that my people are from Nigeria & Ibo people" - Blair Underwood -
  22. ^ Lynch, Deidre Shauna; Hollis R. Lynch (1970). Edward Wilmot Blyden. Oxford University Press US. p. 3. ISBN 0-195-01268-2. 


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