American Stories

Portrait of Omar ibn Said

About This Resource

"Portrait of Omar ibn Said," a photograph from the DeRosset Papers, P-214, is in the Southern Historical Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It is a mounted portrait with a handwritten biographical sketch on the reverse side, the transcription of which is provided here. The portrait is a copy on albumen paper of an ambrotype original. Omar ibn Said is known for having written an autobiography and for his literacy in the Arabic language.


The handwriting on the front under the portrait reads, "Uncle Moro" (Omeroh), the African (or Arab) Prince whom Genl. Owen bought, and who lived in Wilmington N.C. for many years, and died in Bladen Co. in 1864, aged about 90 years.”

Continuing on the back of the portrait is a biographical sketch that reads, “This old man's history was extremely interesting. Born in the region around Timbuctoo and the son of a King or Chief, he was taught to read & write Arabic, & having committed some offence he was banished by his people who were named by some writers Malis, or Mellès, and by Stanley, Malais. He was captured and sold into slavery to a ship which brought him to South Carolina, where he was purchased by a young upcountry planter, who treated him harshly, and he ran away, wandered over the line into North Carolina, was found ill at a negro cabin, was arrested as a runaway slave, pit in jail at Fayetteville, and having attracted attention by writing on the walls in Arabic, was released by Gen. James Owen on bond, afterward bought by him from the S. C. planter and treat as a pensioner and friend the remainder of his life. Although a devout Mahometan he became a devout Presbyterian, and lived befriended & respected by everybody until his death in 1864, at the age of about 90 years. He is buried in the family graveyard of the Owens in Bladen County N. C. It was said that he was a Free Mason. He was a short "Mustee" colored man, polite, and dignified in his manners. I remember him very distinctly. AM Waddell. 1905”


Southern Historical Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Documenting the American South, n.d.

How to Cite This Page

"Muslim Journeys | Item #70: Portrait of Omar ibn Said", June 20, 2024


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