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Igbo Diaspora

"The Lord shall bring thee again with ships into Egypt, by the way whereof he said to thee that thou shouldst see it no more. There shalt thou be set to sale to thy enemies for bondmen and bondwomen, and no man shall buy you"

Deuteronomy 28:68

Iboland's high population densities, which have often been remarked on, point to the same conclusion. The Owerri area has a population density of over four hundred per square mile, rising in places to over a thousand per square mile, one of the greatest densities of a rural population in the world.


Iboland was one of the areas of West Africa most seriously affected by the slave trade. Ibos were exported as slaves throughout the whole period of the trade, from the first recorded Ibo slave one Caterina Ybou, sent to San Thome  until the slave trade came to an end in the middle years of the nineteenth century.

The IBO PEOPLE and the Europeans: The genesis of a relationship  to 1906



Map showing where slaves were sourced in Africa for the Trans-Atlantic slave trade

Table giving the numbers of slaves exported from various regions in Africa.

Trans-Atlantic Slave exports, From 1650  to 1900

Region 1650 to 1700 1700 to 1750 1750 to 1800 1800 to 1850 1850 to 1900 Total
Sene-gambia 51,100 109,800 205,100 113,900 - 479,900
Upper Guinea 4,100 20,000 210,900 160,100 16,100 411,200
Windward Coast 800 18,500 124,700 38,600 600 183,200
Gold Coast 85,800 374,100 507,100 68,600 - 1,035,600
Bight of Benin 246,800 708,200 515,000 520,300 25,900 2,016,200
Bight of Biafra 108,900 205,200 695,900 446,400 7,300 1,463,700
West Central ? 806,400 1,525,400 1,458,200 155,000 3,945,000
South East ? 19,400 44,000 380,700 26,800 470,900
Total 497,500 2,261,600 3,828,100 3,186,800 231,700 10,005,700
Source: Transformations in Slavery by Paul E. Lovejoy
Cambridge University Press, 2000, ISBN 0-521-78430-1
Derived from tables: 4.1, 3.4, and 7.4



* Various places from where Igbo Slaves were shipped to the New World – Ekwe Nche Organization’s researched interpretation.

Our fore-parents have a saying that is thousands of years old, “the fruit does not fall far
away from the tree.

In the introduction,  "Igbo Nations" we began to paint a picture of the Igbo, a people that
will choose death to enslavement, a nation that Yah, called a headstrong nation.

"The next major disaster that has struck the Igbo in the last thousand years is the
trans-Atlantic Slave trade. It is to be noted that no institution emerged from within the
ancient lgbo peoples to promote the slave trade. The autochthonous lgbo were, primarily,
victims and fighters against enslavement. It was either the ljesha/Ekti confederation of ‘Ekiti
Parapo’ on the western branch, or the Isu alliance on the eastern branch of the ancient Igbo
people that were fighting to fend off the slave-machines of immigrant elements. The lgbo
hold that an oppressor cannot, himself, be free: ONYE JI MMADU N’ALA, JI ONWE
YA - He that holds another down cannot stand up! The incentive to oppress or enslave
others was, simply, not there for one who equates freedom and life.
It is immigrant pharaonists, with centralized command institutions, that promoted it, as they
are still doing, with impunity, in Nigeria today.

But the lgbo waged epic struggles against the evil trade. Struggle for a just World! Let us
not go into much detail about the struggles in the homeland. Let us consider the
better-known activities of the Diaspora lgbo. Take the Underground Railroad in the United
States, or the roles of lgbo people like Bishop Turner or Edward Blyden in the founding of
Liberia. The Igbo activities to free the African Slaves in the United States made Alabama
Governor George Wallace accuse them in 1968 of causing the America civil war. He,
therefore, opposed any relief to embattled Biafra during his 1968 presidential campaign.
These were remarkable feats. But, let us look at one action of predominantly lgbo Haiti.
This reveals the IDEAS behind the actions. What they did, after they won their freedom
from slavery by smashing Napoleon’s best army, under the personal command of his
brother in-law, General Lec!erc. Napoleon’s wife, Josephine had been born in Haiti. So, to
recapture the place after its seizure by the rebellious slaves was an emotional issue for him.
He put in his best, but lost again, in a disastrous campaign that set him up for final
destruction in Europe! The Haitians set themselves the task, after freeing themselves, of
freeing the African slaves allover the world! They then set out implementing their resolve.
First, they invaded what is now the Dominican Republic, defeated the Spanish slavers there
and freed the slaves. Then, they made a deal with Simon Bolivar,
called the liberator of Latin America. They rebuilt Bolivar’s army that the Spanish had
destroyed, gave him a printing press for propaganda, on condition that wherever he freed,
he would free the slaves. That set the stage for the freedom of Latin America and the slaves.
The Chain-reaction of events ultimately freed African slaves worldwide with Oladudah
Equiano co-coordinating in Europe. World struggle for a just world! “To free the African
from the bondage-of-ages”, Nnamdi Azikiwe observed years later, “is lgbo manifest
destiny.” Equiano was the first man to articulate the concept of pan- Africanism. Edward
Blyden, another man of lgbo extraction whose descendant became the first Orator of the
University of Nigeria Nsukka, is reputed to be the first man to use the term.

The lgbo created Pan-Africanism!”

World Struggles for a just world

By Maazi Chidi Osuagwu, PhD.

The contribution of the Igbo nation to the present civilization are numerous, consider
Democracy, for example.

“It is a truism in the historical literature that Igbo, especially Igbo males, were not at all
appreciated in the Americas, mainly because of their propensity to run away and/or commit
suicide. Igbo were indeed, sometimes described as “refuse slaves” who were purchased
in High percentages in Virginia because the poverty of the slave owners left them no



It is now a proven fact that Igbo slaves were the preferred slaves in Virginia.
Although, Gwendolyn Midlo Hall, above tells us that they were purchased because of
“the poverty of the slave owners”, one is then hard pressed to explain why the
wealthy landowners in Virginia would also buy them considering “their propensity to
run away and/or commit suicide”.

Let us consider a short history of Thomas Jefferson:

“Thomas Jefferson was born on April 13, 1743 in Shadwell, Virginia. One of eight
children, his father was a wealthy surveyor who owned many slaves and his mother came
from a prominent Virginia family. Jefferson had six sisters and one brother.

In 1760, Jefferson entered the College of William and Mary. He studied law and became a
lawyer after college. In 1768, he designed and built a home near Shadwell, Virginia which
he named Monticello. That same year, he was elected to the Virginia House of Burgesses
(state legislature.) Four years later, he married a wealthy widow named Martha Wayles
Skelton. Her riches brought more land and slaves to Jefferson's already vast holdings. They
went on to have six children. Unfortunately, only two of his children survived into adulthood.

Jefferson was opposed to the British taxation and control of the colonies and spoke out
against it whenever he got a chance. He was considered a great writer and often wrote
about his views where Britain was concerned.

In the spring of 1775, Jefferson was selected to represent Virginia at the Second
Continental Congress in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He was asked to join five other men in
writing a paper to express the colonies' views about their right to break with Britain and
govern themselves. It only took a few days but Jefferson wrote the first draft of what would
eventually become the Declaration of Independence. The document said that all men were
equal and that God had put them on Earth with certain rights. Those rights included life,
freedom and the pursuit of happiness. It went on to say that men created governments in
order to make sure all men had these rights and that governments received their power from
those men.

"We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men are created equal; that they are
endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty
and the pursuit of happiness; that to secure these rights, governments are instituted among
men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed."
(Declaration of Independence, 1776)

After reworking some portions of the paper, the Continental Congress signed the
Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776.

Jefferson returned to Virginia and in 1779, he was elected to become the governor of the
state. It was not an easy time for Jefferson. First, the Virginia troops lost when British
troops invaded the state and in 1782, his wife died during childbirth. He was called upon to
represent the state again at the Continental Congress and then moved to France in 1784
when asked to replace Benjamin Franklin as the American Minister to France.

Jefferson returned to the US in 1789 and became the first Secretary of State under
President George Washington. In this job, he was responsible for how the United States
dealt with foreign nations. However, Jefferson was also very interested in the U.S.
government. He did not want the individual states or citizens to lose their power to the
federal government and spoke out on this topic many times.

In 1796, Jefferson finished a close second in the race for President even though he had not
announced that he was running. As the runner up, he became the Vice President to John
Adams. He and John Adams disagreed about how much power the states should have to
create the laws for their citizens. John Adams and his friends (George Washington and
Alexander Hamilton) were called the Federalists and Thomas Jefferson and his supporters
became known as the Republicans. This was the end of the one party government in the
United States.

In 1800, Jefferson ran for President with Aaron Burr as his Vice President. In those days,
people did not separate their votes for President and Vice President. The election ended in
a tie vote. After several weeks of debate in front of the U.S. House of Representatives,
Jefferson was declared the President.

Probably the most important thing that happened during his first term of office was the
Louisiana Purchase. France agreed to sell the United States the land between the
Mississippi River and the Rocky Mountains for $15 million. Jefferson then asked
Meriwether Lewis and William Clark to set out and explore the region. Jefferson was easily
reelected in 1804 for a second term of office.

In 1808, he returned to Virginia to pursue his favorite hobbies: reading, writing, gardening
and architecture. In 1819, he founded the University of Virginia.

Thomas Jefferson died at Monticello on July 4, 1826, 50 years after the signing of the
Declaration of Independence.”

Thomas Jefferson


A study of the history of Thomas Jefferson bring out certain salient points:

“Thomas Jefferson was born on April 13, 1743 in Shadwell, Virginia.

One of eight children, his father was a wealthy surveyor who owned many slaves and
his mother came from a prominent Virginia family.”

Europe or the Western world up to this period had no history of Democracy, in fact
feudalism was the their only concept of government, so where could Jefferson had
come up with the quote below?

"We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men are created equal; that they
are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are
life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness; that to secure these rights, governments
are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the

WE know from history that he was born in Virginia and “his father was a wealthy
surveyor who owned many slaves and his mother came from a prominent Virginia
family”. We now know that most of the slaves were Igbo.

The quotation above from Jefferson is not un-similar to the Igbo (Nri) concept
Nri-ness, defined below, a concept that has existed among the Igbo for thousands of
years. If Jefferson spent his childhood and teenage years amongst the Igbo slaves,
should it then be surprising that he absorbed these concepts from them?

“The early Nris were divinely endowed with the quality of human value, that no
human mortal has the divine authority to enslave the other – hence their courage.
They would rather kill themselves than be subjected to slavery. This dogma is one
of the tents of NRIOLOGY. NRIOLOGY is the concept of Nri-ness, i.e. Equality of
human being, that all people are equal before God.”

From the Palace of Eze Nri

Let us consider another great American, George Washington. Again he was born to
slave owners in Virginia and he grew up amongst these slaves.

“George Washington was born into a world in which slavery was accepted. He became a
slave owner when his father died in 1743. At the age of eleven, he inherited ten slaves and
500 acres of land. When he began farming Mount Vernon eleven years later, at the age of
22, he had a work force of about 36 slaves. With his marriage to Martha Custis in 1759,
20 of her slaves came to Mount Vernon. After their marriage, Washington purchased even
more slaves. The slave population also increased because the slaves were marrying and
raising their own families. By 1799, when George Washington died, there were 316 slaves
living on the estate.

The skilled and manual labor needed to run Mount Vernon was largely provided by slaves.
Many of the working slaves were trained in crafts such as milling, coopering, blacksmithing,
carpentry,and shoemaking. The others worked as house servants, boatmen, coachmen or
field hands. Some female slaves were also taught skills, particularly spinning, weaving and
sewing, while others worked as house servants or in the laundry, the dairy, or the kitchen.
Many female slaves also worked in the fields. Almost three-quarters of the 184 working
slaves at Mount Vernon worked in the fields, and of those, about 60% were women.

The workday for slaves was from sun-up to sun-down, six days a week. Sunday was a day
of rest.

Although George Washington was born into a world where slavery was accepted, his
attitude toward slavery changed as he grew older. During the Revolution, as he and fellow
patriots strove for liberty, Washington became increasingly conscious of the contradiction
between this struggle and the system of slavery. By the time of his presidency, he seems to
have believed that slavery was wrong and against the principles of the new nation.

As President, Washington did not lead a public fight against slavery, however, because he
believed it would tear the new nation apart. Abolition had many opponents, especially in the
South. Washington seems to have feared that if he took such a public stand, the southern
states would withdraw from the Union (something they would do seventy years later,
leading to the Civil War). He had worked too hard to build the country to risk tearing it

Privately, however, Washington could -- and did -- lead by example. In his will, he
arranged for all of the slaves he owned to be freed after the death of his wife, Martha. He
also left instructions for the continued care and education of some of his former slaves,
support and training for all of the children until they came of age, and continuing support for
the elderly.”

George Washington and Slavery


Is it impossible to surmise that these slaves also had profound effect on him?

These are just two of the founding fathers of America who were born in households
with large holding of Igbo slaves. What of the others?

Ohacracy, the purest form of democracy, continue to be practiced in parts of
Igboland. This might be referred to as “Collective Leadership”, as compared to the
“Feudal Democracy” practiced by the world, the pyramidal structure with one
person at the head.

“The lgbo believed a thousands ago, and today, that political power and the economy
should be controlled by “all the people”, to avoid injustice. No one man can be father of all
- OTU ONYE ANAGHI AWU NNAM OHA! It was and is a struggle for a just world, by
the Igbo, a thousand years ago and later. The idea of the people as king still exists in those
parts of lgboland that did not come under the direct hegemony of immigrant monarchists.
One such is Obowu, from where the writer comes. The popular expression still is “
Ohanawueze!” ‘The people who are the king’. Exactly the idea at lgbomokun a thousand
years earlier! No well-groomed Obowu person fails to address the people assembled as
Ohanawueze, as preamble to a public speech.”

World Struggles for a just world

By Maazi Chidi Osuagwu, PhD.


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