Apr 27, 2008

Were America’s first slaves white? This book says they were.

(NYTBR) - ... “White Cargo” begins with the discovery of a 17th-century skeleton in Maryland in 2003; it turned out to be that of a boy, about 16 years old, who had suffered from tuberculosis and injuries consistent with hard labor. Presumably he had been a slave, since his body had not been properly buried, but thrown into the basement of a home near Annapolis, “in a hole under a pile of household waste.” He was northern European, probably British, one of tens of thousands of victims of a century-long practice, stretching from Boston to Barbados, that treated whites as slaves and that largely predated both the black slave trade and American independence. Continued

Image: Indenture, George Washington Papers at the Library of Congress, 1741-1799


Christopher Carrico said...

Interesting. I would have to agree with the authors that to call the conditions of these people "indentured servitude," and to think that there is any kind of clear distinction between this kind of "servitude" and "slavery" is misleading. There doesn't seem to have been any clear legal distinction between "servant" and "slave" in the colonies until the very end of the seventeenth century, and the two words were often used interchangably... A great starting point for thinking about all of this still seems to be Edmund Morgan's American Slavery, American Freedom: the Ordeal of Colonial Virginia.

falmanac said...

The past was a hard, hard place and very few of us Americans are separated by more than a couple of generations from the prison or the poorhouse or the slave pen.