Knowledge Session: Who Were The White Slaves Of Europe?

At the same time as the Afric­an slave trade was just begin­ning the Irish slave trade began when James II sold 30,000 Irish pris­on­ers as slaves to the New World. His Pro­clam­a­tion of 1625 required Irish polit­ic­al pris­on­ers be sent over­seas and sold to Eng­lish set­tlers in the West Indies. By the mid 1600s, the Irish were the main slaves sold to Anti­gua and Mont­ser­rat. At that time, 70% of the total pop­u­la­tion of Mont­ser­rat were Irish slaves.

Ire­land quickly became the biggest source of human live­stock for Eng­lish mer­chants under king James the second. The major­ity of the early slaves to the New World were actu­ally white.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.

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. In this dec­ade, 52,000 Irish (mostly women and chil­dren) were sold to Bar­ba­dos and Vir­ginia. Another 30,000 Irish men and women were also trans­por­ted and sold to the highest bid­der. In 1656, Crom­well ordered that 2000 Irish chil­dren be taken to Jamaica and sold as slaves to Eng­lish set­tlers.

Many people today will avoid call­ing the Irish slaves what they truly were: Slaves. They’ll come up with terms like “Inden­tured Ser­vants” to describe what occurred to the Irish. How­ever, in most cases from the 17th and 18th cen­tur­ies, Irish slaves were noth­ing more than human cattle.

The Eng­lish mas­ters quickly began breed­ing the Irish women for both their own per­son­al pleas­ure and for great­er profit. Chil­dren of slaves were them­selves slaves, which increased the size of the master’s free work­for­ce. Even if an Irish woman some­how obtained her freedom, her kids would remain slaves of her mas­ter. Thus, Irish moms, even with this new found eman­cip­a­tion, would sel­dom aban­don their kids and would remain in ser­vitude. In time, the Eng­lish thought of a bet­ter way to use these women (in many cases, girls as young as 12) to increase their mar­ket share: The set­tlers began to breed Irish women and girls with Afric­an men to pro­duce slaves with a dis­tinct com­plex­ion. These new “mulat­to” slaves brought a higher price than Irish live­stock and, like­wise, enabled the set­tlers to save money rather than pur­chase new Afric­an slaves. This prac­tice of inter­breed­ing Irish females with Afric­an men went on for sev­er­al dec­ades and was so wide­spread that, in 1681, legis­la­tion was passed for­bid­ding the prac­tice of mat­ing Irish slave women to Afric­an slave men for the pur­pose of pro­du­cing slaves for sale.” In short, it was stopped only because it interfered with the profits of a large slave trans­port com­pany.

England con­tin­ued to ship tens of thou­sands of Irish slaves for more than a cen­tury. Records state that, after the 1798 Irish Rebel­lion, thou­sands of Irish slaves were sold to both Amer­ica and Aus­tralia. There were hor­rible abuses of both Afric­an and Irish cap­tives. One Brit­ish ship even dumped 1,302 slaves into the Atlantic Ocean so that the crew would have plenty of food to eat.

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Arash Sharifi

Arash Sharifi

Arash has been pas­sion­ate about Hip hop for many years. He believes through hip hop you can teach, edu­cate and empower people to become bet­ter ver­sions of them­selves and help and sup­port their com­munity and oth­ers. Hip hop is more than just music, it can be a teach­er to us all.

About Arash Sharifi

Arash Sharifi
Arash has been passionate about Hip hop for many years. He believes through hip hop you can teach, educate and empower people to become better versions of themselves and help and support their community and others. Hip hop is more than just music, it can be a teacher to us all.

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