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Omar Ibn Said (1770-1864)
Also known as “Uncle Moro” or “Moreau,” Omar Ibn Said was born in Northwest Africa to a wealthy, and possibly royal, family. In 1807, a year before the Constitution made the international slave trade illegal, he was captured as a result of African warfare, sold to slave traders, and shipped to Charleston, South Carolina. Fleeing his abusive South Carolina master, he fled north and eventually arrived in Fayetteville, where he was captured while praying in a church. Later purchased by James Owen, the future president of the Wilmington and Raleigh Railroad and major-general of the militia, Said, a house slave, openly condemned the “wicked” slave trade and the actions of “depraved” masters. According to contemporary magazines, however, he lauded Owen for his benevolent paternalism and Christian charity. Said lived out the rest of his life in Bladen County and died in 1864.
Since 1995 when his autobiography, the only American slave narrative known to exist in Arabic, was found, Said has gained national attention. Many scholars contend Said was a devout Muslim until his death. Said, however, made a Christian profession of faith and joined the Presbyterian Church. Said could have written approximately fourteen Arabic manuscripts.
By Troy L. Kickler, founding director of the North Carolina History Project
Related Categories: Religion
, African American
Related Encyclopedia Entries: Lunsford Lane (1803-?)
, Naval Stores
, State v. Mann
, The Impending Crisis of the South: How to Meet It
, Levi Coffin (1798 – 1877)
, Aaron McDuffie Moore (1863-1923)
, Harriet Jacobs (1813-1897)
Related Commentary: The Story of Lunsford Lane: How Entrepreneurial Spirit Overcame Slavery
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Related Lesson Plans: Discussion of the Lunsford Lane Narrative
Region: Coastal Plain
While in captivity, Omar Ibn Said wrote his slave narrative in Arabic. He converted from Islam to Christianity. Image courtesy of the North Carolina Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Libraries.
Arabic translation of the Lord's Prayer transcribed by Omar Ibn Said. Image courtesy of the North Carolina Office of Archives and History, Raleigh, NC.
Arabic translation of the 23rd Psalm by Omar Ibn Said. Image courtesy of the North Carolina Office of Archives and History, Raleigh, NC.