F20 Black Atlantic: Resources, Pedagogy, and Scholarship on the 18th Century Black Atlantic

Myths of a White Atlantic

The last thing I intended to run into in this class was is meme culture. Memes have become such a large part of my life to the point that sometimes instead of telling someone how I feel I’ll just describe a meme. While I find most mems hilarious and entertaining, I admit that meme culture has allowed for the quick circulation of information without much thought as to its source or legitimacy. Memes have been crucial to the Irish/White slavery narrative and since no one ever really asks “Where did that meme come from?” this particular mode of circulation was best for such a ludicrous claim. As Alex Amend said in his article on the Irish slave mem: “Propaganda is cheap to reproduce on the web.”

My love of memes is what drew me to Liam Hogan’s work on the Irish slave meme, its origination, and spread. One is immediately able to draw conclusions about the meme’s spread from the map Hogan gives at the top of his site. There is a high concentration of Facebook users sharing these memes in the South and Northeast regions of the country. That’s not surprising. If I reveal any of my own prejudices or biases in making such a statement, I cannot find it in myself to apologize.

When thinking about the myth of white slavery what stands out to me the most is the desire not to explain history, but to use history to explain present systemic racism and the development of such a system over time. Most of these memes do not include facts or dates, they simply reference a vague historical claim for the purpose of telling Black people to stop bringing up slavery. Usually, I see white supremacists trying to claim historical events did not happen, but the Irish slave meme is very much about using a false history to silence the present. It indicates that the meme and the false history upon which it was based were carefully crafted not to educate, but to take the wind out of present outcry about a system set up to try and ensure Black failure.

In the case of this myth I do recognize how easy it is to fall into the trap of passing on false information especially if it aligns with your views or views your are trying to prove to someone else. I have been the spreader of false information or misinformation a few times. Considering the time we live in when information can spread so quickly it is most important to take the time to find the right information. After my deep dive on the subject of Irish slaves, I saw that many of the articles which discussed the topic were poorly cited. For these diehards though it might be safe to assume that information conflicting with the Irish slave myth would be dismissed as “gaslighting articles” by “descendants of groups who directly benefited from the mass exploitation of the Irish” as one site put it. However, for those on the fence or people who are looking for a way to fact check memes they come across on social media, here are a few sites:





Snopes (my personal favorite)


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