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“O” is for Omar Ibn Said (ca. 1770-1859)

South Carolina A to Z

A Fulbe from the Senegambia region of East Africa, Omar was taken into slavery in the late eighteenth century and forced across the Atlantic to the Americas. Records of his life indicate that he lived in North and South Carolina. He was a pious Muslim who prayed five times a day and tried to fulfill the other four major requirements of Islam, including a pilgrimage to Mecca on foot. Taken into slavery during one of the wars in the region, his American saga began when he arrived in Charleston in 1807. Sold to a brutal enslaver, he ran away to North Carolina where remained an enslaved person the remainder of his life. Omar Ibn Said was fluent in Arabic and wrote his autobiography in Arabic.

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Dr. Walter Edgar has two programs on South Carolina Public Radio: Walter Edgar's Journal, and South Carolina from A to Z. Dr. Edgar received his B.A. degree from Davidson College in 1965 and his Ph.D. from the University of South Carolina in 1969. After two years in the army (including a tour of duty in Vietnam), he returned to USC as a post-doctoral fellow of the National Archives, assigned to the Papers of Henry Laurens.