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Yes, they called themselves slaves.  If you remember in Frederick Douglass's autobiography, he mentions two Irishmen he met while working on the docks in Baltimore who asked him what kind of slave he was, bound for life or a term.  Douglass was Black (mixed race, actually) and a slave, but those Irish dockworkers pretty much saw themselves as his peers.   I believe in a book called The Wages of Whiteness, the author talks about the interchangeability of the terms slave and servant in the (British American) Colonial era, which is the reason the free American servant class starts to prefer the word "Hand" to describe what they were doing for a living.  You see this apparently in the "Help Wanted" ads of the day, as employers started to use the new preferred term to attract workers.  The term servant became unappealing to "free" Americans because of its association with slavery, which was becoming ever more associated with color, as well as the need to undergird the economic growth of the USA in the early-mid 19th century just before the Civil War.  Don't forget, also the term wage-slave, which is not just meant to be ironic.
by jjellin on Mon Mar 19th, 2007 at 08:03:29 AM EST
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