White Slavery in the United States

Source: African American Pamphlet Collection (Library of Congress).

This pamphlet was published in 1855 by the American Anti-Slavery Society of New York. It is instructive on a number of levels, but above all for its forthright assertion that whites could be slaves. Not indentured servants, but slaves.

The pamphlet shows that white slavery could happen in various ways, and that the status of slave could be validated in law through maternal heritage. The white slaves in question were considered to be negroes by blood.

But this in itself is interesting. Had white slavery been unknown, there would have been little need for legal disputes and formal tests by which to settle those disputes. Or, put another way, the reality of white slaves must have been familiar enough for antebellum abolitionists to drum it up into a fearsome threat against whites in general (and potentially a motivation for civil war).

Some argue that there is a bright wall of separation between white servitude and slavery, because the one was temporary and contractual whereas the other was lifelong and involuntary. The white “negroes” of the pamphlet show that that wall was easily breached. An example of such a breach would be the famous Louisiana case of Sally Miller:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sally_Miller

23 thoughts on “White Slavery in the United States

  1. I don’t think such isolated cases are really important against the backdrop of Black slavery in the US.

    But in Louisiana, it got really complicated. New Orleans was Creole, which means that it was colonized by the French, who sent only men to the colonies. They were expected to find wives among the local women, in the case of New Orleans, either Amerindians or Black slaves. (There are Creoles in Tahiti as well, French colonists and Polynesians) As a result, there were a lot of Free People of Color, some of whom owned slaves themselves.

    Miscegenation was not unlawful in Louisiana until around the time of the Civil War.

    Debutant balls got complicated, as young women introduced to society were identified as White, Negro, Mulatto, Quadroons, Octoroons and even Hexadecaroons based on their fraction of Black blood.

    None of which is important but since we’re going to discuss history widely, something to know.

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    1. Amazing the methods we contrive to establish a pecking order. What you described is kind of like a caste system in India except based on blood rather than 3000 year old religious beliefs.

      Of course, neither system is or was a meritocracy. No matter how successful or valuable a person is, he can’t hide blood or birth. So he will always be lower than somebody. Which, I suspect is the point.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. “Which, I suspect is the point.”

        Especially for deplorable people with very little – if any – personal merit.

        “At least I ain’t a [Place your own racial slur here].”

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    2. Contemplating the pamphlet helped me realize that the antebellum abolitionists and the white supremacists of the period may have been motivated by the same self-interested fear: If blacks could be slaves, then so could whites. By 1860 there was ample public evidence to show that the peculiar institution had begun to morph out of control.

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      1. …”that the antebellum abolitionists and the white supremacists of the period may have been motivated by the same self-interested fear”

        That fear was of the former Black slaves alone. Your speculation is a load of fertilizer.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Yawn, another day and more nonsense. Still stuck on the idea that slavery in the United States was suffered by whites and not just blacks.

    And what is today’s “proof?” The single drop theories of racists that held you were African and subject to slavery if even a single distant ancestor was black. Never mind that this ugly history proves the opposite of what you are claiming, you throw it out. Amazing.

    In case you do not understand, under the law you were subject to slavery ONLY if you had some degree of blackness. Because, you know, white people were considered human beings and could not be enslaved.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. RE: “you were subject to slavery ONLY if you had some degree of blackness.”

      A white person could also enter slavery through mistaken identity. Since federal law entitled slave owners to chase down their property across state lines, having white skin was no guarantee of freedom.

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      1. Uh, what part of “mistaken identity” do you not grasp.

        The law – which is what we are talking about – did NOT allow white people to be LEGALLY enslaved. Period. This is not hard to understand and your struggling with this easy concept shows how committed you are to the racist “alternative fact” that white people suffered as slaves every bit as much as black people.

        And the clear message embedded in this baloney is – “We white people got over being slaves, why can’t black people?”

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Your pretensions are quaint. I get it that the pamphlet is not proof of white slavery. I find the pamphlet interesting and significant for the fear it raised in 1855 that whites could become illegally enslaved.

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          1. You need to look in the mirror. What do you see? Someone who in the last few days has insisted that white people suffered slavery every bit as much as black people. Yep, there he is. And still rooting around looking for evidence to bolster such nonsense.

            And now you offer the bizarre theory that the abolitionist movement was one of self-interest because of some pervasive fear of being enslaved themselves. It fits a pattern. “Conservatives” see everything as a matter of self-interest. Very little concept of simple decency, morality or empathy being motivators of other people.

            Liked by 1 person

          2. When I look in the mirror I see someone who has recently pursued an interest in the conditions of white servitude prior to the Civil War and discovered a number of things I had not been previously aware of.

            I am happy to share what I learn, especially if doing so causes others to reveal their shallowness and spite.

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          3. …”white servitude”…

            There is a big difference between servitude and slavery. You don’t believe it, but I am happy to tell you it is true.

            …” especially if doing so causes others to reveal their shallowness and spite.”

            Yes, Mr. Jones has done that repeatedly. He needed no assistance for you and your great awakening. I have seen neither from anyone else here.

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          4. RE: “There is a big difference between servitude and slavery.”

            Some people seem to think so. I once thought so, too, but now that I have learned more about it I am struck more by the similarities than the differences.

            In fact, I find that calling 17th century blacks who endured involuntary servitude slaves while pretending that 17th century whites who endured involuntary servitude were free persons requires a perverse kind of racism.

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          5. Indentured servants and slaves were treated very differently. Equating them is not accurate.

            “In fact, I find that calling 17th century blacks who endured involuntary servitude slaves while pretending that 17th century whites who endured involuntary servitude were free persons requires a perverse kind of racism.”

            The limited number of whites in servitude pales compared t the number of Blacks.

            You’re quaint way of thinking appears to be a desperate way to say something that doesn’t comport with history. How many of your white slaves were kept in slavery their entire lives and had their children born into slavery and dies as slaves? Cherry picking the small amount that may have happened to is disingenuous.

            Liked by 1 person

          6. “a perverse kind of racism”

            The nonsense and sense of white victimhood never stops. What a comfort it must have been for you to learn in your dotage that Europeans were enslaved every bit as much as Africans! Gee, who knew that many thousands of white people came here as servants? What a revelation!

            The distinctions between the institutions of indentured servitude and slavery could not be more stark but all you see are similarities? Yes, both were required to work. That is where the similarity ends.

            Liked by 1 person

          7. RE: “The limited number of whites in servitude pales compared t the number of Blacks.”

            300,000 white immigrants from Britain came to the American colonies under indenture. 340,000 immigrants from Africa came to the American colonies as slaves. I’d say the numbers are comparable.

            Plus, while we call the black immigrants slaves, many obtained their freedom after a period of indenture. An example I have mentioned to you before is Anthony Johnson:

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anthony_Johnson_(colonist)

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          8. And those 300k white indentured were freed at the end of the contract period; the slaves and their progeny were enslaved until 1865.

            Why do you insist on attempting to equate the unequal treatment of PEOPLE?

            Liked by 1 person

          9. RE: “The distinctions between the institutions of indentured servitude and slavery could not be more stark…”

            There was no institution of slavery in the early colonies. It is perverse to pretend that there was.

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          10. “There was no institution of slavery in the early colonies. It is perverse to pretend that there was.”

            The very first black people in the English colonies had been kidnapped by Portuguese slave traders and, after most of them died in crossing the ocean, were SOLD to the colonists in Jamestown. That was in 1619. It does not get much earlier than that.

            Why you persist in this “white slavery” nonsense is not at all a mystery. We are all too familiar with your – uh hum – European civilization chauvinism.

            Liked by 1 person

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