Omar Ibn Said Joins the Presbyterian Church

An image of Said from the N.C. Museum of History's collections

An image of Said from the N.C. Museum of History‘s collections

On December 3, 1820, Omar Ibn Said, one of the best documented practicing Muslim slaves in America, joined the First Presbyterian Church, in Fayetteville.

Omar is believed to have arrived in Charleston in 1807, shortly before the foreign slave trade was terminated. He fled from his cruel master, running for about a month before arriving in Fayetteville in 1810. There he was jailed and advertised as a fugitive slave. During his imprisonment, Omar used coals from the fireplace to write on his cell walls in Arabic.

Omar eventually was purchased by James Owen of Bladen County. He lived with some degree of privilege at the Owen plantation. Omar actively practiced his Islamic faith for many years, and Owen procured a copy of the Qu’ran in English for him in order to facilitate his learning English. As Omar learned English, the Owens hoped that he might convert to Christianity and to that end, Owen procured a Bible in Arabic in 1819. (The 1811 Bible is now owned by Davidson College).

A highway marker in Cumberland County commemorates Said’s life.

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2 responses to “Omar Ibn Said Joins the Presbyterian Church”

  1. Robert Dodson says :

    I drive by this highway marker twice a day, going to and from work. I had never looked up the entire history of this person. You state that he converted to Christianity, but at that marker I believe the building there is a mosque named after him. Anyway, very interesting. I’m a new subscriber and I really enjoy these historical tidbits.

    • nctimetraveler says :

      Hi Robert, The story of Omar Ibn Said is, indeed, very interesting. There are many scholars who believe that Said only feigned his conversion in order to make his life as a slave a little easier. His writings have been the subject of much study–most recently a new translation with extensive notes & contextualization etc. was published–you might try to find it. http://uwpress.wisc.edu/books/4789.htm

      Thanks for your interest!

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