On Friday the progressive website Raw Story released an article entitled: “Irish slaves”: Historian destroys racist myth conservatives love to share on Facebook. The historian in question is Liam Hogan, a research librarian in Ireland. The article opens with the following paragraph:
White supremacists have been promoting the myth that the first slaves brought to the Americas were Irish, not African – but a historian says there’s simply no evidence to back up their racist claims.
For one, the bias of the writer is obvious not just in the first paragraph, but in the article’s title as well. This led me to looking into this issue for myself, and I was shocked at how easy this is to disprove. For one, a person doesn’t have to be a racist to find the very true account of Irish slavery to be important. Someone could just be fed-up with the constant maligning of white people by the snowflakes…oops, I mean the left. Or someone could just believe in knowledge, and not looking at history through a straw in order to amplify one’s own outlook regarding racial politics…,
…or, another progressive website called The Daily Kos could write their own in-depth article about Irish slavery in December of 2013 called The slaves that time forgot, but with none of the snowflake chatter about White Supremacists; racist myths, or Facebook posts. One line in this piece disputes the claim at the start of the Raw Story article:
The first recorded sale of Irish slaves was to a settlement in the Amazon in 1612, seven years before the first African slaves arrived in Jamestown.
It does appear that at least the English sold Irish slaves in the Americas before they ever did African ones; though obviously over time, a much greater number of Africans were victimized.
The Daily Kos article is filled with accounts of how terrible the treatment of the Irish was, especially while Oliver Cromwell was the Lord Protector of England, Scotland and Ireland between 1653 and 1658. The Raw Story piece on the other hand refers to the Irish atrocities as “indentured or penal servitude,” and seems more concerned how people on social media or the racist web could mislead people with warped versions of the facts. This is a fair concern, but they don’t stop at attacking people for warping the facts on the internet, but seem to view the story of Irish slavery as a threat to their own racial politics – which it is.
The New York Times released an article on this same subject on Friday along with the Raw Story piece entitled: Debunking a myth: the Irish were not slaves, too. This article is much more direct in asserting that there was no Irish slavery at all. Like the Raw Story piece, the writer seems concerned that racists or right wingers now can talk about Irish slavery on the internet. His concern still doesn’t change the fact that Irish were indeed slaves; though some of the mistreated Irish were indentured servants, some have to be defined as slaves. One more excerpt of the 2013 Daily Kos article should drive this home:
And then Cromwell got nasty.
Anyone implicated in the rebellion had their land confiscated and was sold into slavery in the West Indies. Even Catholic landowners who hadn’t taken part in the rebellion had their land confiscated. Catholicism was outlawed and Catholic priests were executed when found. To top it off, he ordered the ethnic cleansing of Ireland east of Shannon in 1652. Soldiers were encouraged to kill any Irish who refused to relocate.
The Daily Kos article has many other convincing portions; quotes hard source material, and doesn’t waste time lamenting about poorly made Facebook memes, racism, or racial politics. The piece is linked in the New York Times article, and seems to be portrayed as a casualty of misinformation along with other works; but it’s carefully not discussed, as it’s sources are very sound, and not reliant upon the opinion of a single historian.
If you still can’t decide which liberals to believe on the issue of Irish slavery, try reading one of the many books on the subject like To Hell or Barbados by Sean O’Callaghan – 2000. This book is mentioned in both the Raw Story and New York Times articles and is called historically questionable, and shoddily researched by Liam Hogan, but no evidence is offered. It even seems to be at least partially blamed for the Daily Kos article.
What neither of these articles released on Friday can contend with are the hard sources that state quite plainly that Irish slavery was real, and not just indentured servitude. One such good source the Daily Kos article used was from the English State Papers of 1742, which it quoted as thus:
During the 1650’s, 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, (Oliver) Cromwell ordered 2,000 Irish children be taken to Jamaica and sold as slaves to English settlers.
It’s pretty clear-cut isn’t it? Just because some people who write for Raw Story and The New York Times are offended by racists or conservatives misusing facts about Irish slavery to further their own arguments, doesn’t make it right for them to attempt to erase the truth of Irish slavery for their own brand of misinformation.
In the case of the New York Times article the misinformation seems deliberate in one paragraph:
Some of them are easy to disprove. Many of the memes use photographs, including of Jewish Holocaust victims or 20th century child laborers, to illustrate events they claim happened in the 17th century, long before the invention of photography. Many reference a nonexistent 1625 proclamation by King James II, who was not born until 1633.
Well, the 1625 proclamation was quite real, only it was issued by King James I, who also had gone by the title of King James VI. The 2013 Daily Kos article I have spoken so highly of made the error of calling the proclaiming king James II, but it seems an honest error. I wish I could say the same of the New York Time's inability to do an easy fact-check, but most of all I wish I could say the biased, main stream media doesn’t use misinformation spread by their political rivals on social media as a smokescreen for their own falsehoods.