Travel & Roots

White Irish Slaves

9 likes 6 years ago

The Forgotten History of Green and White Human Cargo

  • 100,000 Irish slaves were auctioned off to the New World

  • Oliver Cromwell was once again the scourge of the Irish

  • An illicit trade of “indentured servants” were sent across the Atlantic

Slavery — that indelible scar on the psyche of humanity — makes no distinction between color, class, creed or race. Unfortunately, it’s still an ongoing problem even in the 21st century amongst so-called first-world nations. History provides us with many celebrated figures and victories against the tyranny of slavery from Harriet Tubman to Henry "Box" Brown. However, at first glance, the notion that the Irish were also subjected to the same horrendous ordeal seems more like the product of an old wives’ tale. So what is the truth behind this grisly story and what evidence exists to support the theory?

According to John Martin of the Montreal-based Center for Research and Globalization, in  his article, The Irish Slave Trade — The Forgotten ‘White’ Slaves, during the 1650s, over 100,000 Irish children between the ages of 10 and 14 were taken from their parents and sold as slaves in the West Indies, Virginia and New England. Yet again, Oliver Cromwell  takes center stage in another dark chapter of Irish history. Mr Martin asserts that Cromwell bears responsibility for the breaking up of Irish families and the sale of so-called “indentured servants” to the New World.

“From 1641 to 1652, over 500,000 Irish were killed by the English and another 300,000 were sold as slaves. Ireland’s population fell from about 1,500,000 to 600,000 in one single decade. Families were ripped apart as the British did not allow Irish dads to take their wives and children with them across the Atlantic. This led to a helpless population of homeless women and children. Britain’s solution was to auction them off as well,” he said.

Would those Irish subjected to this unscrupulous trade have cared to debate the labels assigned to them by their masters? Black? White? Irish? Appropriate  branding offers scant consolation to a victim of human trafficking.  A slave is a slave. It seems highly unlikely that the plight of an indentured servant was significantly better than that of a bona fide slave.

Further research and reading on the subject  is available through books on such as White Cargo.

Coffin Ships.jpg

The dreaded coffin ships teeming with slaves destined for the New World

More Resources/Further Reading:

  1. Original Article: The Forgotten White Slaves

  2. The Book on Amazon: White Cargo

  3. The Story of Henry "Box" Brown

  4. Harriet Tubman's Biography


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