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The Igbo in the Atlantic slave trade became one of the main ethnic groups enslaved in the era lasting between the 16th and late 19th century. Located near indigenous Igbo territory, the Bight of Biafra (also known as the Bight of Bonny),[1] became the principal area in obtaining Igbo slaves.[2] The Bights major slave trading ports were located in Bonny and Calabar; a large number of these slaves Igbo.[3][4] Slaves, kidnapped or bought from fellow Africans, were taken to Europe and the Americas by European slave traders.[5] An estimated 14.6% of slaves were taken from the Bight of Biafra between 1650 and 1900, the third greatest percentage in the era of the transatlantic slave trade.[6]

Ethnic groups were fairly saturated in certain parts of the Americas because of planters preferences in certain African peoples.[7] The Igbo where dispersed to colonies such as Jamaica,[8] Cuba,[8] Haiti,[8] Barbados,[9] United States,[10] Belize,[11] Trinidad and Tobago[12] among others. Elements of Igbo culture can still be found in these places. In the United Sates the Igbo were found common in the state of Maryland and Virginia.[13]



It is estimated that a total of 1.4 million Igbo people were transported (via European ships) across the Atlantic in the era of Atlantic slave trade.[14] Most of these ships were British.[15]




The Igbo were dispersed to Barbados in large numbers. Olaudah Equiano, a famous Igbo author, abolitionist and ex-slave, was dropped off on Barbados after being kidnapped from his hometown near the Bight of Biafra. After arriving in Barbados he was promptly shipped to Virginia.[16] At his time, 44 percent of the 90,000 Africans disembarking on the island (between 1751 and 1775) were from the bight. These Africans were therefore mainly of Igbo origin. The links between Barbados and the Bight of Biafra had began since the mid seventeenth century, with half of the African slaves arriving on the island originating from there.[17]


Some slaves arriving in Haiti included Igbo people, here they were considered suicidal. Aspects of Haitian culture that exhibit this can be seen the the Ibo loa, a Haitian loa (or deity) created by the Igbo in the Vodun religion.[8]


United States


  1. ^ Guo, Rongxing (2006). Territorial Disputes and Resource Management: A Global Handbook. Nova Publishers. p. 130. ISBN 1-600-21445-2.  
  2. ^ "Bight of Biafra". Bight of Biafra. Britannica Online Encyclopedia. Retrieved 2008-11-19.  
  3. ^ Chambers, D.B.. "REJOINDER - The Significance of Igbo in the Bight of Biafra Slave". Routledge, part of the Taylor & Francis Group. Retrieved 2009-01-23.  
  4. ^ "Bonny". Bonny. Britannica Online Encyclopedia. Retrieved 2008-12-27.  
  5. ^ Bailey, Anne Caroline (2005). African Voices of the Atlantic Slave Trade: Beyond the Silence and the Shame (illustrated ed.). Beacon Press. p. 80. ISBN 0-807-05512-3.  
  6. ^ Heuman, Gad J.; James Walvin (2003). The Slavery Reader (illustrated ed.). Routledge. p. 45. ISBN 0415213037.  
  7. ^ Berlin, Ira. "African Immigration to Colonial America". History Now.  
  8. ^ a b c d Lovejoy, Paul (2000). Identity in the Shadow of Slavery. Continuum International Publishing Group. pp. 58–59. ISBN 0-826-44725-2.  
  9. ^ Morgan, Philip D.; Sean Hawkins (2004). Black Experience and the Empire. Oxford University Press. pp. 416. ISBN 0-199-26029-X.  
  10. ^ "Ethnic Identity in the Diaspora and the Nigerian Hinterland". Toronto, Canada: York university. Retrieved 2008-11-23.  
  11. ^ Appiah, Anthony; Henry Louis Gates. Africana. pp. 2095. ISBN 0-465-00071-1.  
  12. ^ Craton, Michael. Roots and Branches. University of Waterloo Dept. of History. pp. 292. ISBN 0-080-25367-9.  
  13. ^ Chambers, Douglas B. (2005). Murder at Montpelier: Igbo Africans in Virginia (illustrated ed.). Univ. Press of Mississippi. p. 23. ISBN 1578067065.  
  14. ^ Linebaugh, Peter; Rediker, Marcus Buford (2000). The many-headed hydra: sailors, slaves, commoners, and the hidden history of the revolutionary Atlantic. Verso. p. 336. ISBN 1-859-84798-6.  
  15. ^ Eltis, David; Richardson, David (1997). Routes to slavery: direction, ethnicity, and mortality in the transatlantic slave trade. Routledge. p. 73. ISBN 0-714-64820-5.  
  16. ^ Equiano, Olaudah (2005). The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African. Gutenberg Project.  
  17. ^ Morgan, Philip D.; Hawkins, Sean (2006). Black Experience and the Empire. Oxford University Press. p. 82. ISBN 0-199-29067-9.  

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