Transatlantic slave trade
Paul Robeson was a multi-lingual American actor and writer whose father was of Igbo descent.
The transatlantic slave trade which took place between the 16th and late 19th century affected the Igbo heavily. Most Igbo slaves were taken from the Bight of Biafra (also known as the Bight of Bonny).This area included modern day southeastern Nigeria, Western Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea and parts of Northern Gabon. Major trade ports for goods and slaves in the area included Bonny and Calabar Town. A large number of slaves from the Bight of Biafra would have been Igbo. Slaves were usually sold to Europeans by the Aro Confederacy who kidnapped or bought slaves from Igbo villages in the hinterland. About 15 percent 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. Igbo slaves were known for being rebellious and having a high count of suicide in defiance of slavery. For still unknown reasons, Igbo women were highly sought after.
Contrary to common belief, European slave traders were fairly informed about various African ethnicities, leading to slavers targeting certain ethnic groups which plantation owners preferred. Ethnic groups consequently became fairly saturated in certain parts of the Americas. The Igbo where dispersed to colonies such as Jamaica, Cuba, Haiti, Barbados, the United States, Belize and Trinidad and Tobago, among others. Elements of Igbo culture can still be found in these places.
For example, in Jamaican Patois the Igbo word unu, meaning you plural, is still used as well as the term red Igbo (or red eboe) which describes a black person with fair or "yellowish" skin which many Igbos possess. This term had originated from the reported prevalence of these skin tones among the Igbo. The word Bim, a colloquial term for Barbados, was commonly used among enslaved Barbadians (Bajans). This word is said to have derived from bi mu in the Igbo language (or either bem, Ndi bem, Nwanyi ibem or Nwoke ibem which means my people), but may have other origins (see: Barbados etymology). In the United Sates the Igbo were found most common in the states of Maryland and Virginia, where they remained the largest single group of Africans.
Recent Igbo-speaking immigrants are still common in the state of Maryland.
The arrival of the British in the 1870s and increased encounters between the Igbo and other ethnicities near the Niger River led to a deepening sense of a distinct Igbo ethnic identity, because they find many cultures especially those highlighted in the New Testament very common with their cultures and values. And Christianity preach of individual freedom marries exactly with Igbo sense of individualism in thinking an decision making, rather than one person dominance of others through royalty.
The Igbo proved remarkably decisive and enthusiastic in their embrace of Christianity and Western education. Due to the incompatibility of the Igbo decentralized style of government and the centralized system required for British indirect rule, British colonial rule was marked with open conflicts and much tension. And Under British colonial rule, the diversity within each of Nigeria's major ethnic groups slowly decreased and distinctions between the Igbo and other large ethnic groups, such as the Hausa and the Yoruba, became sharper.
Colonial rule drastically transformed Igbo society as seen in the book Things Fall Apart. British rule brought about changes in culture such as the introduction of Warrant Chiefs as Eze (traditional rulers) where there had been no such monarchies. Christianity had played a great part in the infiltration of foreign ideology into Igbo society and culture, sometimes shunning parts of the culture.
The rumors that the Igbo women were being assessed for taxation sparked off the 1929 Igbo Women's War in Aba (also known as the 1929 Aba Riots), a massive revolt of women never encountered before in Igbo history. As a people who are not use to be told what and what not to do, they fid themselves always in conflict with the new invader of their land and these led the well organized and executed Aba women riot in as far back at the 1920s and many historians had argued that, that action in Aba laid the foundation of trade unionism in black Africa.
Living conditions changed under colonial rule. The tradition of building houses out of mud walls and thatched roofs died while houses started being built with cement blocks and zinc roofs at an astonishing pace even to the surprised of the awed Europeans. Roads for vehicles were built. Buildings such as hospitals and schools were erected in many parts of Igboland with only the expertise of the Europeans but through indigenous funding. British find this astonishing that these people are not waiting for things to be done for them but rather always asking what they can do to help thing move quickly.
Along with this change came electricity and running water in the early 20th century. Electricity brought new devices such as radios and televisions which are now common place in most Igbo households.