Igbo in the Atlantic World: African Origins and Diasporic Destinations

Igbo in the Atlantic World: African Origins and Diasporic Destinations

Igbo in the Atlantic World: African Origins and Diasporic Destinations

Igbo in the Atlantic World: African Origins and Diasporic Destinations


The Igbo are one of the most populous ethnic groups in Nigeria and are perhaps best known and celebrated in the work of Chinua Achebe. In this landmark collection on Igbo society and arts, Toyin Falola and Raphael Chijioke Njoku have compiled a detailed and innovative examination of the Igbo experience in Africa and in the diaspora. Focusing on institutions and cultural practices, the volume covers the enslavement, middle passage, and American experience of the Igbo as well as their return to Africa and aspects of Igbo language, society, and cultural arts. By employing a variety of disciplinary perspectives, this volume presents a comprehensive view of how the Igbo were integrated into the Atlantic world through the slave trade and slavery, the transformations of Igbo identities and culture, and the strategies for resistance employed by the Igbo in the New World. Moving beyond descriptions of generic African experiences, this collection includes 21 essays by prominent scholars throughout the world.


Raphael Chijioke Njoku and Toyin Falola

This book is about the Igbo (anglicized Ibo) people of southeastern Nigeria and their diasporic connections through the trans-Atlantic slave trade that began in Africa around the mid-fifteenth century. This endeavor followed the expanded Portuguese quest for trade commodities beyond the original attraction to gold, which by then was becoming increasingly scarce. Covering a wide range of topics from the timeless precolonial era through the colonial period and to the present, the various chapters approach the study of Igbo and Igbo/African Diaspora connections from a multidisciplinary perspective. Collectively, the authors provide the most detailed examination to date of the Igbo experience, focusing on indigenous institutions and cultural practices, the Igbo role and agency in the trans-Atlantic slave trade originating from the Bight of Biafra emporium, the sojourns of slavery victims in the Americas, and the return to Africa by those recaptives and émigrés who welcomed the idea of resettling in different parts of nineteenth-century West Africa. Also covered is the impact of the Atlantic exchanges between Africa, Europe, and the Americas (including commerce, missionary evangelism, and colonial rule) on Igbo ways of life in the modern Nigerian setting.

The Igbo are one of the most dynamic and courageous groups in Africa. in particular, their enterprising and entrepreneurial character, resilient spirit, and contradictory reports of their stubbornness and malleability demand further consideration by scholars. the Igbo constituted one of the most predominant ethnic/linguistic groups sucked into the trans-Atlantic slave trade and slavery between the 1650s and the 1800s. Over the past four decades, the fields of Africana studies, African-American studies, Latin-American studies, slave studies, and Atlantic history have attracted a significant amount of scholarly interest as innovative research approaches continue to enhance our knowledge of the multiple and complex processes that created the African Diaspora. Perceptively, Igbo in the Atlantic World: African Origins and Diasporic Destinations builds on the insights provided by the methodology and approach of Linda Heywood and coauthors in Central Africans and Cultural Transformations in the American Diaspora as well as The Yoruba Diaspora in the Atlantic World, edited by Toyin Falola and Matt D. Childs. These works, respectively, focus on the Kongo/Angolan and Yoruba contributions to diasporic cultures by exploring in most part the dynamics of cultural continuities. Similarly, the various chapters here place emphasis on the importance of tectives of their Old World origins and the New World destinations.

Until recently, most scholarship interpreted and explained the African Diaspora by using generic descriptions such as “Africa,” “Africans,” and “Blacks.” To cite but a few examples, in 1941, the doyen of modern African studies, Melville Herskovits, fired the cannon of contemporary African and African Diaspora studies with his The Myth of the Negro Past, which was widely discussed and debated by scholars across diverse disciplinary divides. Herskovits aimed to counter the erroneous notion that the African slaves arrived in the Americas without their inherited cultural practices. Another study that broadened scholarly debate was Van Sertima’s They Came Before Columbus, which focused on the earliest mention of Africans and their cultural footprints on the ancient American soil. This was followed . . .

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