In the city where nearly half of all enslaved Africans were brought to this nation, Spoleto Festival USA will unveil a new opera based on the life of an African-Muslim slave. His autobiography is believed to be the only surviving, unedited story written in Arabic in the United States.
Omar Ibn Said came to Charleston through Gadsden’s Wharf in 1807 and was sold as a slave. He escaped his Charleston owner and fled to North Carolina where he was recaptured, jailed and resold. He penned his autobiography in 1831. His story, lost for decades and eventually held in private collections, was acquired by the Library of Congress two years ago. It was recently translated into English.