Myth #1: There were Irish slaves in the American colonies.
As historian and public librarian Liam Hogan has written: “There is unanimous agreement, based on overwhelming evidence, that the Irish were never subjected to perpetual, hereditary slavery in the colonies, based on notions of ‘race’.” The enduring myth of Irish slavery, which most often surfaces today in service of Irish nationalist and white supremacist causes, has roots in the 17th and 18th centuries, when Irish laborers were derogatorily called “white slaves.” The phrase would later be employed as propaganda by the slave-owning South about the industrialized North, along with (false) claims that life was far harder for immigrant factory workers than for slaves.
What’s the truth? Large numbers of indentured servants did indeed emigrate from Ireland to the British colonies of North America, where they provided a cheap labor force for planters and merchants eager to exploit it. Though most crossed the Atlantic willingly, some Irish men and women—including criminals as well as simply the poor and vulnerable—were sentenced to indentured servitude in Ireland, and forcibly shipped to the colonies to carry out their sentences. But indentured servitude, by definition, came nowhere close to chattel slavery. For one thing, it was temporary; all but the most serious felons were freed at the end of their contracts. The colonial system also offered more lenient punishment for disobedient servants than slaves, and allowed servants to petition for early release if their masters mistreated them. Most importantly, servitude wasn’t hereditary. Children of indentured servants were born free; slaves’ children were the property of their owners.
The Article was 1st published by History.com