Americans should understand that our history regarding slavery is more complex than simply saying, "Black Man Good, White Man Bad."
I say this since I recently received a note from a reader who took issue with my story The Civil War: Did The North Use Slave Labor? That article is about child slave labor practices in the Industrialized North during and after the Civil War and the North's hypocrisy. They were supposedly against slavery in the South.
My reader read the story and somehow determined that I tried to somehow demean what African slaves went through. He thought this because I wrote about child slave labor in the North. Though the practice of child slave labor lived long after black slaves were freed in the South, I pointed that out in the article, but that must not matter to him. He just couldn't understand that there are many forms of slavery, that there are many groups who have practiced slavery, and there are several more groups that have been victims of slavery. America's story of slavery is very complex and more than just about African slavery.As I state in that article: Slavery comes in several different forms. Forced Marriage, Domestic Servitude, Indentured Servants, Forced Labor, Bonded Labor, Child Labor, and Sex Trafficking are all forms of slavery. As for "chattel slavery"? Chattel slavery is the "owning" of human beings as property. They are bought, sold, given, and inherited. Since slaves in this context have no personal freedom or recognized rights to decide the direction of their own lives, isn't that comparable to what they did to children until the 1930s?
The child slave market was filled by hiring others to find them and detain them. In some cases, it was from orphanages. Other times it was from a destitute family. They were lied to and held prisoner, and even kidnapped. They were sold into bondage and stolen. They had no personal freedom or recognized rights, were beaten and starved, had bounties put on their heads if they escaped from where they were housed or worked, and were in some cases shackled to machinery and given a coffee can to urinate in. To me, that's slavery. That is certainly not the life of a free person.
Slavery in American is not something that only Africans endured. Since I can't avoid the obvious pun, it's not simply Black and White. Slavery is not just about Africans being brought to America as slaves. And while I've gotten used to people writing me to call me a Right-Wing Extremist over silly Leftist social issues, I'm finding that I'm being criticized because I write the truth about our history.
Of course, the subject more than any other that gets folks on the Left steamed is when I write about the history of slavery in America. We've all heard the Left's mantra, which is always the same: Africans were done wrong as slaves, and no other group comes close to their suffering at the hands of white men.
That's their argument, even if it is wrong. That's what they believe, even if it is wrong. Frankly, the Left gets a lot of things wrong.
Anthony Johnson was a "Negro," as he was listed since the word "negro" means "black," from what is modern-day Angola. He was brought to Virginia to work on a tobacco farm in 1619 after a British ship raided a Portuguese ship. Because the Portuguese slave traders baptized the slaves bought in Africa, the British had to abide by a Crown law that said they could not make slaves of baptized captives. So instead of calling them "slaves," the British called them "Indentured Servants."
Casor left and became employed by a free white man named Robert Parker, Johnson's neighbor. Johnson took legal action and sued Robert Parker in Virginia's Northampton Court in 1654 to retrieve his "property," which was Casor. In 1655, the Virginia colonial court ruled that Anthony Johnson could hold John Casor indefinitely. The court gave judicial sanction for blacks to own slaves of their own race. Because of that, John Casor became the first permanent slave in the British colonies in America, and Anthony Johnson became the first legally recognized slave owner in Britain's American colonies. And yes, both men were Africans.
While both men were black, I find it interesting that whites could not legally hold a black Indentured Servant as an indefinite slave until 15 years later, in 1670. In that year, the Virginia Colonial Assembly passed legislation permitting free whites, blacks, and Indians the right to own blacks as slaves. Yes, that ruling also gave Indians the right to own slaves -- black and white. And yes, they did.
By 1699, the number of free blacks prompted fears of a "Negro insurrection." So, believe it or not, that was the year that the British colony of Virginia ordered the repatriation of freed blacks back to Africa. And believe it or not, most blacks actually remembered what it was like to be sold into slavery by other Africans. So most sold themselves to white masters just so they would not have to return to Africa.
This was the first effort to repatriate free blacks back to Africa. The modern nations of Sierra Leone and Liberia both originated as colonies of repatriated former black slaves. As for black slave owners in North America? Anthony Johnson was just the first of many.
It is true that many slaveholders were African or had some African ancestry. And while this is going to be one of those points where someone is not going to like the truth and will inevitably write to call me something or other, the number of black slave owners continued to rise after the United States was established and cut ties with the British.
President Thomas Jefferson, who is vilified today for owning slaves, stopped the importation of slaves into the United States in 1807. Yet, by 1830, 3,775 black slave owners were living in the South. Those black slave owners owned 12,760 black and white slaves. By 1860, the year before the start of the Civil War, about 3,000 black slaves were owned by black slave owners in New Orleans alone.
It should be noted that some historians believe that black slave owners bought their own relatives to give them better lives. Of course, some historians say that most black slaveholders appeared to hold slaves as a commercial decision absolutely no different than white slave owners did.
Slavery in America is said to have begun when the first African slaves were brought to the North American colony of Jamestown, Virginia, in 1619 to aid in the production of crops as tobacco. But that might not be completely accurate. For example, the Irish slave trade began when British King James II sold 30,000 Irish prisoners as slaves to the New World.
England's King James II issued a proclamation of 1625 that 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 a source of human livestock for English merchants. The majority of the early slaves to the New World were actually white. In fact, from 1641 to 1652, over 500,000 Irish were killed by the English, while another 300,000 were sold as slaves.
As a result of deporting those who the English considered criminals and killing the rest, Ireland's population went from about 1.5 million to less than half that in one decade. Families were said to have been ripped apart as the British did not allow Irish husbands to take their wives, and subsequently, fathers were stripped from their children as they were sent across the Atlantic.
This led to a population of homeless women and children. Britain’s solution was to auction them off as well. During the 1650s, over 100,000 Irish children were taken from their parents. All just to be sold as slaves in the West Indies, Virginia, and New England.
In that decade, 52,000 Irish, mostly women and children, were sold to Barbados and Virginia. Another 30,000 Irish men and women were sold to the highest bidder. Finally, in 1656, Cromwell reportedly ordered that 2,000 Irish children be taken to Jamaica and sold as slaves to English settlers needing cheap labor.
One writer said that many people today will avoid calling the Irish slaves - yet that's what they indeed were -- slaves. History Revisionists will try to explain the plight of the Irish as their simply being "Contract Labor," which is another term for "Indentured Servants." But it would be dishonest to describe them as such, especially since they were indeed treated as slaves.
While I know full well that my bringing up the plight of the Irish will be seen as me trying to lessen the plight of Africans brought to America, people should recognize that Irish slaves were nothing more than human cattle during the 17th and 18th centuries. And yes, their plight did precede the Africans.
The Five Civilized Tribes adopted some practices of the Europeans that they saw as beneficial. Owning slaves was seen as useful. It's said the Cherokee tribe had the most slaves. In 1809, while it is said that they did have a few white slaves, they held nearly 600 enslaved blacks. In 1835, that number increased to almost 1,600 slaves. And by 1860, that number increase to around 4,000. And yes, that increase came after the Trail of Tears and their relocation to the Indian Territory.
Cherokee populations for those dates were 12,400 in 1809, 16,400 in 1835, and 21,000 in 1860. Of the Cherokee who owned slaves, 83 percent of them held fewer than 10 slaves. Some historians believe that the tribes owned slaves to mirror the whites with who they came in contact. Some say the nature of slavery in Cherokee society often mirrored that of a white slave-owning society.
For example, the Cherokee had laws that barred intermarriage of Cherokee and enslaved Africans. Cherokee who aided slaves were punished with one hundred lashes on the back. Interestingly, those of African descent were barred from holding office in the Cherokee society. That was especially true if they were a mixed-blood Cherokee.
The word "kauwa" is Hawaiian for "slave-class." Their slave class called the"kauwa" was filled with those taken as prisoners of war or their children. The kauwa were identified with a tattoo mark around the eyes or on the forehead. They were indeed slaves, but also much more than that. They were often used as a human sacrifice at the luakini heiau when worshipping their gods. They were not the only human sacrifices. Law-breakers of all classes and social castes, and even defeated political opponents, were also acceptable as human sacrifices. Yes, that's real tough politics when the loser becomes a human sacrifice.
Because of their need for cheap labor, the Kingdom of Hawaii adopted and used the American Fugitive Slave Laws to govern the Indentured Servants and the treatment of immigrant labor brought to Hawaii. When Hawaii became a Territory of the United States on June 14, 1900, Hawaii's Masters and Servants Act of 1850 was abolished. Although not officially slavery, Hawaii's Masters and Servants Act of 1850 nevertheless shared the economic goal of slave laws to harness labor. Those slave laws were that of the United States.