IT’S STILL HAPPENING
by Mike McCormack, AOH NYS Historian
National Anti-Defamation Chairman, Neil Cosgrove, alerted me to a NY Times article by Liam Stack published on St. Patrick’s Day. It was the worst example of Paddy Bashing, seen in recent years. I got the article and felt that Stack, a controversial correspondent, who in the past has been accused of selling fear, obviously read an internet posting by Travis Gettys for it is extremely similar. Gettys is an editor for Raw Story – a site only slightly better than the media sold at checkout counters and both quote a Librarian named Liam Hogan who is obviously trying to create an audience for a book he is writing about white racism. Based on select few insensitive Irish-Americans who brought up Irish slavery as a counterpoint to Black Lives Matter arguing We got over it why can’t they! as typical of Irish sentiment, Hogan decided to debunk Irish slavery.
While I know a great many Irish men and women, I know not one who has voiced that or a similar sentiment. The problem with the Stack/Gettys/Hogan argument is that there exists documented evidence of Irish men, women and children being sold into slavery as far back as the Cromwellian wars. They were sent to America, St Kitts, Antigua and Barbados where the Redleg (Redshanks) community is very aware of their historic origins and has even been recorded in interviews. One said, When I was a boy in St. Kitts, we learned about Irish slavery, why doesn’t (sic) Americans? There are even documents of parentage saved from the archives of the Montserrat library, during the June 1977 volcanic eruption. These documents read like animal pedigree papers showing the forced mating of young Irish girls with Mandingo warriors to breed a better slave more capable of working in the burning sun. One document noted that in October 1657, 6 Irish slaves were among a group of 20 captured after running away and were put to death by a British Court which wouldn’t surprise anyone, except that it happened in Bridgetown, Barbados. The history of Irish slavery even moved a St. Kitts Minister, G.A. Dwyer Astaphan, to introduce legislation in the St. Kitts Parliament to grant land for a monument to remember the 25,000 Irish men and women who were shipped there as slaves. There is no doubt that the Caribbean islands, Virginia and New England played a role in the original slave trade of Irish banished for political crimes and after the ethnic cleansing of the mid-1600s Confederation War. Montserrat’s nearly 70 percent Irish slaves even earned it the title Emerald Isle of the Caribbean.
Don’t you think that if Irish slavery was a myth, more accredited professors with doctorates in history would be coming out and saying so instead of a few nondescript yellow journalists and bigots? They aren’t because they know you can’t change history. Luminaries such as Aubrey Gwynn, Professor of Medieval History at University College Dublin and President of the Royal Irish Academy in his 1932 work Analecta Hibernica; Richard Dunne, Guggenheim Fellow for Humanities and Director of the McNeil Center for Early American Studies at the University of PA in his 1972 work Sugar and Slavery; as well as dozens of bibliographic references in Sean O’Callahan’s To Hell or Barbados, all verify the findings in Thurloe’s State Papers of 1742 that King James VI sold thousands of Irish as slaves to the New World. In fact, an earlier proclamation by James I (17 September 1603) For the Due and Speedy Execution of the Statue against Rogues, Vagabonds, Idle, and Dissolute Persons renewed an earlier Elizabethan law that criminalized vagabondage and “idleness” in 1597 authorizing transportation. James VI’s policy of selling Irish political prisoners to English settlers in the West Indies was continued by Charles I and Oliver Cromwell furthered the practice. The Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery at Yale University also uncovered numerous historical documents regarding Irish slavery! They conclude that the number of ‘Barbadosed’ Irish varies from 12,000 to 60,000 (so many were sent to Barbados that the term ‘Barbadosed’ was coined to define them). When our Revolution closed America as a receptacle for England’s unwanted, ask any Australian what happened next!
One point overlooked by Stack and Gettys in Hogan’s writing is that while he calls the Irish only indentured servants (slavery in politically correct terminology), he readily admits that some of indentures were involuntary! That sounds like slavery to me! However, his main argument is that it was not in as great a number as some proclaim. To this writer, any number is horrible and unjustified brutality. As for those who later unwisely volunteered to become indentured to secure a ticket to America, it is recorded that only about 40% survived to become free men. While Ireland and St. Kitts erect monuments to remember the Irish who were enslaved in English colonies, one closer to home memorializes Anne Goody Glover. She was the last supposed witch hanged in Salem, MA, who was in fact an Irish slave who escaped Barbados seeking refuge in that Puritan village. A monument in Boston commemorates her unjust and tragic end as an Irish slave.
The maddening part of this whole argument is that some insensitive headline hunters are trying to erase the memory of our people who suffered incredibly for no other reason than that they were Irish and in the way of English colonialism. We cannot let them be forgotten. We wrote to the NY Times asking them to please verify the trash they publish, no matter that it is found on the Internet and in other scurrilous media, especially when it downgrades or demonizes decent people who have contributed so much to earn for them the very right to publish such trash. I also suggested that if they wanted historical Irish opinions on slavery, they should consult the writings of Wolfe Tone, Robert Emmet, Daniel O’Connell and Gerry Adams.