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Irish slaves is a term which refers to the supposed historical exploitation of Irishmen as slave labor. It is frequently evoked by, on the one hand, white supremacists claiming that the enslavement of Africans doesn't matter because "White people were slaves too", and, on the other, by Irish nationalists wanting to feed their persecution complex.
The problem with this theory is that the "slaves" were in fact indentured servants, which is a very different concept. Indentured servants agreed to work for a period varying between 2 to 7 years (in most cases voluntarily), in exchange for being transported to the Americas. At the end of this period, they were free. Slavery, however, as is well known, was forced labor. While indentured servants may have had it bad, the difference between indentured servitude and slavery is enormous, as described by Liam Hogan:
“”Chattel slavery was perpetual, a slave was only free once they were no longer alive; it was hereditary, the children of slaves were the property of their owner; the status of chattel slave was designated by ‘race’, there was no escaping your bloodline; a chattel slave was treated like livestock, you could kill your slaves while applying “moderate correction” and the homicide law would not apply; the execution of ‘insolent’ slaves was encouraged in these slavocracies to deter insurrections and disobedience, and their owners were paid generous compensation for their ‘loss’; an indentured servant could appeal to a court of law if they were mistreated, a slave had no recourse for justice. And so on…
- The unfree Irish in the Caribbean were indentured servants, not slaves, Liam Hogan, Laura McAtackney, and Matthew Connor Reilly.
- The Myth of “Irish Slaves” in the Colonies, Liam Hogan
- Debunking the imagery of the “Irish slaves” meme
- Slavery Myths Debunked
- ‘Irish slaves’: the convenient myth, Liam Hogan.