19th Century: 1831

Omar ibn Said (1770-1864)


O Sheikh Hunter, I cannot write my life because I have forgotten much of my own language, as well as of the Arabic.  Do not be hard on me, my brother. To God let many thanks be paid for his great mercy and goodness.

In the name of God, the Gracious, the Merciful, Thanks be to God, supreme in goodness and kindenss and grace, and who is worthy of all honor, who created all things for his service, even man's power of action and of speech   and 

My name is Omar ibn Seid.  My birthplace was Fut Tur, between the two rivers.  I sought knowledge under the instruction of a Sheikh named Mohammed Seid, my own brother, and Sheikh Soleiman Kembeh and Sheikh Gabriel Abdal.  I continued my studies twenty-five years.  Then there came to our place a large army, who killed many men, and took me, and brought me to the great sea, and sold me into the hands of the Christians, who bound me and sent me on board a great ship and we sailed the great sea a month and a half, when we came to a place called Charleston in the Christian language.  There they sold me to a small, weak, and wicked man, called Johnson, a complete infidel, who had no fear of God at all.  Now I am a small man, and unable to do hard work so I fled the hand of Johnson and after a month came to a place called Fayd-il.  There I saw some great houses.  On the new moon I went into a church to pray.  A lad saw me and rode off to the place of his father and informed him that he had seen a black man in the church.  A man named Handah and another man with him on horseback, came attended by a troop of dogs,  They took me and they made me go with them twelve miles to a place called Fayd-pl, where they put me into a great house from which I could not go outl  I continued in the great house (which, in the Christian language, they called jail) sixteen days and nights.  One Friday the jailor came and opened the door of the house and I saw a great many men, all Christians, some of whom called out to me, "What is your name?  Is it Omar ib Seid?"  I did not understand their Christian language.  A man called Bob Mumford took me and led me out of the jail, and I was very well pleased to go with them to their place.  I stayed at Mumford's four days and nights, and then a man named Jim Owen, son-in-law of Mumford, having married his daughter Betsey, asked me if I was willing to go to a place called Bladen.  I said yes, I was willing.  I went with them and have remained in the place of Jim Owen until now.

O ye people of North Carolina, O ye people of South Carolina, O ye people of America, all of you; have you among you any two such men as Jim Owen and John Owen?  These are good men.  What food they eat they give to me to eat.  As they clothe themselves they clothe me.  They permit me to read the gospel of God, our Lord, and Saviour, and King, who regulates all our circumstances, our health and wealth, and who bestows his mercies willingly, not by constraint.  According to power I open my heart, as to a great light, to receive the true way, the way of the Lord Jesus, the Messiah.