Omar Ibn Said Joins the Presbyterian Church

An image of Said from the N.C. Museum of History‘s collectionsOn December 3, 1820Omar Ibn Said, one of the best-documented practicing enslaved Muslims 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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