Tag Archives: european slaves

More properly called slaves, part 11

This post is gonna be both fun & fundamental for knowing the beginnings of racism in the TAST…

It was the middle of the 17th century. Although there was big money to be made from them, the numbers of enslaved Africans were still miniscule and barely noticeable among the sea of enslaved Europeans (approx 300:11,000). This surprises us, but that’s nothing. It should also be made clear that English weren’t the only slavers. As attested by Prof. Audrey Smedley, there were Africans who owned land and European slaves in this period. No that’s not a typo. 

There were Africans who owned European slaves during the trans-Atlantic slave trade.

(Funny enough, White Cargo makes this assertion yet gives no specific examples. Names, dates, nothing. Time to rummage through other sources methinks!)

Back then skin colour made no difference to socioeconomic status. If you had the means and the desire you could own anything or anybody, and people were allowed to rise and fall in status. Nowadays it’s claimed ‘proper’ slavery began when the African war prisoners from the White Lion (see part 5) were bought by Sir George Yeardley & Abraham Piersey, the 2 richest planters at the time. BOLLOCKS! At the time there was no distinction between indentured servant and slave, so Africans were indentured just like the ‘whites’. And as this whole post series shows the TAST was originally a means for England to get rid of its unwanted people.

This also meant there were African planters with African servants too, unfortunately. Anthony/ Antonio Johnson (real name unknown) was an Angolan who’d been enslaved, gained his freedom after his indenture time then went on to become a slaver and tobacco planter. He founded the Angola Company, a colony based in Northampton County, and had been one of only 12 survivors of the Good Friday Massacre 1622 (see part 6).

Thirty years after setting foot on American soil, he got into a heated argument with one of his (African) servants John Casor (sometimes Cazara or Corsala). Casor had run away from Johnson, and when he was found by another planter he claimed he’d been forced to do an extra 7 years. That other planter, a ‘white’ guy called Robert Parker, sympathised with him so much he represented him in court for 2 years against Johnson! In time Johnson’s sons urged him to free Casor. All good until Johnson reneged, then made the courts compensate him for the 2 years AND made Parker pay up for harbouring a runaway! Even worse, Johnson forced the courts to give him the right to keep Casor FOR THE REST OF HIS LIFE!!! Even when Johnson died, Casor was still enslaved to his wife (Mary, herself an African) and 4 children!

Unfortunately this set a precedent: the TAST’s very first instance of lifelong servitude.

Casor: I hate that fucking Johnson.

The very first documented instance of lifelong enslavement was in 1640. Since the 1620s slavery laws had been tightening up, which increased the number of runaways. The Virginian planter Hugh Gwyn bitched and moaned about his 3 runaways, John Punch (Cameroonian, Gabonese or Ivoirian?), Victor (Dutch) and James Gregory (Scottish). When caught in Maryland, Gwyn wanted to resell them there to save himself the travel cost. However, the Virginia court hated the idea of runaways getting away “scot free” and forced the governor of Maryland to take them back for exemplary punishment! What was the example? All 3 were whipped, Victor & James were ordered to serve the full terms of their indenture plus an extra year, and John was made to serve for the rest of his life.

All the colonies followed suit and allowed for African runaways to be enslaved for life: Massachusetts since 1641, Conecticut since 1650, Virginia from 1661, Maryland from 1663, New Jersey & New York from 1664, and the rest. The presence of lifelong slaves was now becoming commonplace. New laws forbade ‘black’ planters from buying ‘white’ slaves. In 1671 Virginia enforced a law that all newly-arriving ‘non-Christians’ would be enslaved for life, and a colonial assembly in 1673 legalised the enslavement of native Americans. It was at this point that law distinguished servants & slaves, but that’s not all. In total contradiction of English common law, Virginia made all children from a ‘white’ planter father & ‘black’ servant mother inherit the legal status of the mother. Not to mention the colonies switched from predominantly ‘white’ slaves to predominantly* ‘black’ ones.

This was also when our modern understanding of ‘race’ was born. Never before did Hausas, Akans, Oromos, ndi-Igbo, Nuers, Yorubas, Kongos, Ovimbundu, isiZulu or any Africans consider themselves the same on the basis of brown skin or shared continent. Never before did Angles, Saxons, Franks, Scots, Irish, Germans, Normans, Hellenes, Turks or any Europeans consider themselves the same on the basis of pink skin or shared (part of a) continent. Enslaved ones couldn’t afford to, but now they were being given advantages & privileges relative to Africans; it was now forbidden to whip them to death, and slave quarters were starting to be segregated.

* Predominantly being the operative word. This still didn’t mark the end of ‘white’ enslavement, not by a long shot…

Back to Part 10

On to Part 12

More properly called slaves, part 1

Inspired by Don Jordan & Michael Walsh’s White Cargo: The Forgotten History of Britain’s White Slaves in America, ISBN 9781845961930.

This post will focus on the TAST (trans-Atlantic slave trade) but not on the enslaved Africans. Rather, I’ll focus on the enslaved Europeans. It’s not news that ‘whites’ enslaved each other, but rarely is that point dwelt on. I aim to correct that.

I’m going to do separate posts on each chapter, simply because they’re too long and interesting to summarise in one. Conveniently, the book summarises itself in the introduction so I’ll base this first post on that:

It should first be made clear that those ‘whites’ were ENSLAVED. Nowadays there’s an argument that they weren’t slaves as slaves were in lifelong servitude; these were servants contracted (indentured) to serve for a limited time then given freedom & rights. This claim isn’t new; it dates directly from that era and was as justificatory as it is now. But even in theory that argument was bollocks, never mind in practice – especially since the vast majority of them had their servitude periods extended indefinitely at their masters’ whim AND most of them died before the end of their period. Even the tiny minority who outlived their service rarely gained freedom or land rights, living as dirt-poor as they were back in England. While it’s true that from the mid-1700s to 1800s “servant” was understood to mean ‘white’ chattels while “slave”/”Negro” meant ‘black’ ones, masters saw their status as identical, even after lifelong enslavement of Africans was enforced.

Daniel Defoe (c. 1660-1731) said indentured servants are “more properly called slaves”, hence this post’s title.

And my mind is not changed in the least!

In short, both in theory & in practice indentured servant = servant = serf = chattel = slave.

A bit of historical context also helps make sense of the whole TAST:

  • It was conjured up by England, the basis of which was laid in the 1570s.
  • It was a continuation of the old serfdom system, which had supposedly ended in the European Renaissance.
  • Virginia & Maryland were where the first and most successful colonies were established.
  • Though making money off of other people’s backs was an integral purpose of the colonies, since they expected to find cities of gold* like the Spanish & Portuguese did in south America, the main reason for slave labour was to rid England of its “surplus” people – the “poor & lawless”.

* It never happened. Eventually they wised up and looked to crops to line their pockets.

  • After more colonists came, the north American mainland became the main site for expanding the British Empire in conjunction with personal profiteering. The Caribbean islands, on the other hand, were mainly just for personal profiteering.

Though figures are inexact, it’s known hundreds of thousands of ‘whites’ were transported and enslaved. Many of them went by force, but from 1620-1775 the majority went voluntarily and were called free-willers. They thought they were selling just their labour temporarily, but found they were selling their human rights. They were duped into thinking they’d have land, money & renown at the end, only to find they were as bad off as back home or more so.

IF they survived overwork, infirmity, punishments (one girl reportedly received 500 lashes from the whip and was beaten to death!), diseases (many of which were unique to English slaves), the voyages themselves*, malnutrition, overexposure to sun, and attacks from native Americans fed up of their lands being invaded.

Yes, Brits and other ‘white’ slaves were packed into ships in this exact same manner. Needless to say hygiene was piss-poor, illnesses ran rampant and most didn’t make it to land alive. 

From the 16th to early 17th centuries, ‘white’ people were the main labour force of the new American colonies. Even after Africans became the predominant slaves, Europeans were still used left, right and centre throughout the entire TAST period. They were worked and punished, rebelled, ran away & fought alongside the ‘black’ slaves.

The very first slaves were NOT Irish as you may think, though the English did harbour a special hatred of Irish since Anglo-Norman days. It’s true the English saw them as fundamentally inferior and enslaved many of them. They even committed genocide and tried to totally replace them (thanks in large part to Oliver Cromwell).

But that was much later.

The first TAST slaves were English! AND most of them were kidnapped children!

Just to remind you who did the kidnapping

Kidnapping children for this purpose eventually became so common that kidnappers (known as Spirits, hence the phrase spirited away) made a business out of it. They hung around at nearby ports weaving their way into the crowded streets targeting pretty much any lone child they found.

Those children were often beggars, pickpockets and other kinds of street urchins. Some of them were sent by their parents conned into thinking they’d have a better life. However, most were taken without the parents’ knowledge or consent. The work was so torturous and the climate so intolerable to their city-bred bodies most died in the first year! Some were so young, back in 1661 a man was shipping 4 “Irish boys” and his wife said they were so little he should’ve sent them in cradles! Remember Britain only banned child labour in the late 1800s!

In the late 1700s adults (predominantly convicts and petty criminals) were sent as a way to empty England’s overcrowded gaols (prisons) and get rid of the criminals. At first the law didn’t know or care where to chuck them but soon enough settled on the Americas. In other words, before Australia America used to be a dumping ground for England’s human refuse!

Such refuse weren’t always criminals however. They also included many religious & political dissidents (everyone who wasn’t Protestant or didn’t like the current monarch), prostitutes, beggars, and just the down-on-their-luck.

Then came the Irish, during Oliver Cromwell’s ethnic cleansing policy and for at least a century afterward. They were pretty much all taken against their will.

I did it not for pleasure, for pleasure is a sin. Twas my Christian duty

Throughout the entire era Africans were stolen for the same purpose of course. However, the disgusting abusive treatment inflicted on our ancestors was practised and perfected on the ‘white’ slaves first. The slavers ultimately didn’t give a flying fuck who their chattels were, as long as they didn’t have to do shit for themselves. Contrary to the popular American creation myth, American freedoms were gained only after LONG centuries of wanton punishments & enslavement of the poor majority.

Just like today, there were many who denied or belittled this ‘white’ slave trade. Back in the Renaissance Shakespeare’s favourite historian Raphael Holinshed, for example, claimed England had no slaves anymore and any slave who set foot on English soil became immediately free! Maybe that’s why those marked for servanthood were sent away from England, to keep that myth going?

Tens of millions of Euro-Americans today are descendants of those slaves. How many claim them, the way we’re always expected to? How many go out of their way to acknowledge them?

tumbleweed family
Just in case the tumbleweed got lonely, I brought its whole family!

Now onto the fun! Part 2

Some notes on how I use common terms 4

Wow! It’s been a while since I did a race-related post, so I’m going to go back to that. Again this is referring to racial terms as I personally use them based on my ever-evolving knowledge of history, which may or may not agree with the common definitions:

Euro-Arabs: the name I give to most modern Arabs. They’re distinguished from ancient Arabs by their fair/ light/ pale skin, greater variety of hair & eye colour, predominance of ‘white’ European slave ancestry (which they like to completely deny), and often have a disdain for ‘black’ and Asian peoples – whether foreign workers or native-born. Sometimes I may also call them Arabised Europeans, but this may confuse their “mixed-race” status with 100%-European people living in Arabia – if such people still exist. I may also use the term Ziyuwd/ Ziydan which I introduced in an older post.

Admit it. If it weren’t for the headscarf you’d never know would you?

(note: Euro-Arabs aren’t just confined to the Arabian peninsula anymore. Over the centuries they’ve spread to other parts of southwest Asia & north Africa, and now trickling into east [Somalia, Sudan, Djibouti] & west Africa [Mauritania], which is why those lands are Arabic-speaking too. Modern Berbers/ Amazighs are a very good example)

Moroccan Berber children

Afro-Arabs: obviously this would refer to modern Arabs of predominantly enslaved African background. However, I rarely use this term or talk about these people because it’s so often a pointless distinction, similar to Americans/ African-Americans. Furthermore, in many cases it’s inaccurate as it’s often treated as synonymous with ‘black’ Arab, ignoring the fact that the original Arabs were ‘black’ and their unmixed descendants still exist in many parts of the Arabian peninsula!

I’m hesitant to put pictures as I may make that mistake myself, but I’m gonna give it a go:

3rd President of Egypt Anwar Sadat

They often look very similar to original Arabs, hence the confusion:

unmixed Mahri Arab man, NOT Afro-Arab
displaced Yemeni children

Despite my constant distinction between original & modern Arabs, I’m not saying the modern ones don’t have the right to call themselves Arab. Everyone has the right to self-identify however they want; that’s how tribes/ clans/ ethnic groups/ nationalities are defined anyway! But from various Internet forums I’ve seen, a lot of Euro-Arabs are committing an anachronism by claiming their phenotype & ancestry is identical to the original Arabs. They claim to be their direct descendants; even ‘white’ Americans don’t go that far!

Middle Easterners: I have occasionally used this term, simply for ease of reference &/or want of a better term. However, as it’s so Eurocentric (east of Europe, middle to Europe & east Asia aka. the Far East) I try not to use it anymore. Instead I use the term southwest Asians. Arabs do fall in this category but ‘white’ people often see them as interchangeable, which they’re not. As with Arabs, though, their ethnic backgrounds are hugely diverse so I more often distinguish by country than ethnicity.

Afghan druggie injecting crack into his groin!
Iraqi women voting
Pashtun man, Afghanistan
Iranian girl, probably Afro-Iranian as the original ‘black’ Iranians were driven out en masse
Turkish woman

About Turks, I put them in this category for completion but Turkey is considered a transcontinental country, as it covers southwest Asia & Europe (which is just west Asia anyway). I also kind of see Afghanistan as “the dividing line” between southwest & south Asia, though of course there is cultural & ethnic overlap.

Latinos/ Hispanics: I personally hate this term. To me it’s nothing but a catch-all to describe the European cultural influence while ignoring the mixed African & native American influences. I prefer the term Samericans (my shorthand for south Americans), but keep in mind that most of them have predominantly south European (Spanish & Portuguese) ancestry. However, most Samericans have mixed African, native & European blood whether they look it or not.

Update: “Latin America” includes most central American & Caribbean countries, eg. Puerto Rico, Cuba, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, as well as Mexico which is in NORTH America. Basically, Latinos/ Hispanics have culture and language in common much more than ethnicity.

In other words, I’m lost for a term again! Maybe something to show they’re Americans south of USA…

native Taramuhara Mexicans in traditional garb (except the boy)
Yes! An excuse to put another Amara la Negra pic in my blog!!!
And him.

Maybe non-US Americans? Then again that could include Canada. Hmmm…

More to come later.