Did you know that more Irish slaves were sold in the 17th century than black slaves? With a death rate of between 37% to 50%, this is the story the history books don’t tell you about.
and Black Slaves in the Sugar Plantations of Barbados. None of the
Irish victims ever made it back to their homeland to describe their
ordeal. These are the lost slaves; the ones that time and biased history
books conveniently forgot.
The first slaves imported
into the American colonies were 100 White children. They arrived during
Easter, 1619, four months before the arrival of a the first shipment of
Black slaves.Mainstream histories refer to these laborers as indentured
servants, not slaves, because many agreed to work for a set period of
time in exchange for land and rights.
Yet in reality,
indenture was enslavement, since slavery applies to any person who is
bought and sold, chained and abused, whether for a decade or a lifetime.
Many white people died long before their indenture ended or found that
no court would back them when their owners failed to deliver on of
thousands of convicts, beggars, homeless children and other undesirable
English, Scottish, and Irish lower class were transported to America
against their will to the Americas on slave ships. YES SLAVE SHIPS.
of the white slaves were brought from Ireland, where the law held that
it was ?no more sin to kill an Irishman than a dog or any other brute.?
The European rich class caused a lot of suffering to these people , even
if they were white like 1676,
there was a huge slave rebellion in Virginia. Black and white slaves
burned Jamestown to the ground. Hundreds died. The planters feared a
re-occurence. Their solution was to divide the races against each other.
They instilled a sense of superiority in the white slaves and degraded
the black slaves. White slaves were given new rights; their masters
could not whip them naked without a court order,etc. White slaves whose
daily condition was no different from that of Blacks, were taught that
they belonged to a superior people. The races were given different
clothing. Living quarters were segregated for the first time. But the
whites were still slaves.
the 17th Century, from 1600 until 1699, there were many more Irish sold
as slaves than Africans. There are records of Irish slaves well into
the 18th never made
it off the ships. According to written record, in at least one incident
132 slaves, men, women, and children, were dumped overboard to drown
because ships’ supplies were running low. They were drowned because the
insurance would pay for an “accident,” but not if the slaves were
allowed to starve.
Typical death rates on the ships were
from 37% to 50%.In the West Indies, the African and Irish slaves were
housed together, but because the African slaves were much more costly,
they were treated much better than the Irish slaves. Also, the Irish
were Catholic, and Papists were hated among the Protestant planters. An
Irish slave would endure such treatment as having his hands and feet set
on fire or being strung up and beaten for even a small infraction.
Richard Ligon, who witnessed these things first-hand and recorded them
in a history of Barbados he published in 1657, stated:”Truly, I have
seen cruelty there done to servants as I did not think one Christian
couldhave done to another.”(5)According to Sean O’Callahan, in To Hell
or Barbados, Irish men and women were inspected like cattle there, just
as the Africans were.
In addition, Irish slaves, who were
harder to distinguish from their owners since they shared the same skin
color, were branded with the owner’s initials, the women on the forearm
and the men on the buttocks. O’Callahan goes on to say that the women
were not only sold to the planters as sexual slaves but were often sold
to local brothels as well. He states that the black or mulatto overseers
also often forced the women to strip while working in the fields and
often used them sexually as well.(6)The one advantage the Irish slaves
had over the African slaves was that since they were literate and they
did not survive well in the fields, they were generally used as house
servants, accountants, and teachers. But the gentility of the service
did not correlate to the punishment for infractions.
Flogging was common, and most slave owners did not really care if they killed an easily replaceable, cheap Irish most
of these slaves who survived were eventually freed after their time of
service was completed, many leaving the islands for the American
colonies, many were not, and the planters found another way to insure a
free supply of valuable slaves. They were quick to “find solace” and
start breeding with the Irish slave women. Many of them were very
pretty, but more than that, while most of the Irish were sold for only a
period of service, usually about 10 years assuming they survived, their
children were born slaves for life.
The planters knew
that most of the mothers would remain in servitude to remain with their
children even after their service was technically planters
also began to breed the Irish women with the African male slaves to
make lighter skinned slaves, because the lighter skinned slaves were
more desirable and could be sold for more money. A law was passed
against this practice in 1681, not for moral reasons but because the
practice was causing the Royal African Company to lose money. According
to James F. Cavanaugh, this company, sent 249 shiploads of slaves to the
West Indies in the 1680’s, a total of 60,000 African and Irish, 14,000
of whom died in passage.(7)While the trade in Irish slaves tapered off
after the defeat of King James in 1691, England once again shipped out
thousands of Irish prisoners who were taken after the Irish Rebellion of
These prisoners were shipped to America and to Australia, specifically to be sold as Irish
slave shipped to the West Indies or America has ever been known to have
returned to Ireland. Many died, either in passage or from abuse or
overwork. Others won their freedom and emigrated to the American
colonies. Still others remained in the West Indies, which still contain
an population of “Black Irish,” many the descendents of the children of
black slaves and Irish 1688,
the first woman killed in Cotton Mather’s witch trials in Massachusetts
was an old Irish woman named Anne Glover, who had been captured and
sold as a slave in 1650.
She spoke no English. She could
recite The Lord’s Prayer in Gaelic and Latin, but without English,
Mather decided her Gaelic was discourse with the devil, and hung was not until 1839 that a law was passed in England ending the slave trade, and thus the trade in Irish is
unfortunate that, while the descendents of black slaves have kept their
history alive and not allowed their atrocity to be forgotten, the Irish
heritage of slavery in America and the West Indies has been largely
ignored or forgotten.
This article was originally published in 2014 and is frequently updated