Change and Progress Group 1

During the Colonial Era slavery became a very important part of American success. We know that small numbers of Africans lived in Virginia before 1619 but in 1680 Enslaved Africans became the dominant labor system on plantations. How exactly did that happen?
When the colonies started out most labor was the job of indentured servants. (people who's passage to America was sponsored by wealthy settlers already in America. Their debts would be payed of through a few years of service as an indentured servant). Indentured servants were White Settlers that would work for their sponsors for a certain number of years and then would be free to make their own living. They would do manual labor and chores around the house often times working as field hands, cooks, maids, and other such occupations for an average period of about 5 years and then would be freed from servitude.


There are a few factors that led to the replacement of White servants with African slaves.
  • The dramatic drop in the English Birth rate. This led to fewer workers, and with fewer workers competing for jobs it made wages in England go up. The great fire that burned much of London in 1666 created a great need for labor to rebuild the city making the amount of jobs and the good wages more enticing than in the Americas leading too a sharp drop in indentured servants.
  • The amount of available land grew scarce making the Americas even less enticing to would-be settlers.

In the beginning African slaves were treated very much like indentured servants but when the farms in the colonies started growing Tobacco as a cash crop the need for manual labor rose and as a result the number of African slaves grew. During the early years of the colonies there were African indentured servants that were treated the same as white indentured servants. They could own land, marry and were freed after a term of service just like white indentured servants. Although there were always slaves that were simply slaves and had little to know privileges. In the early years of the colonies slaves could actually sue their masters for their freedom if they could produce proof of a successful baptism as a christian. Although in 1639 a law that is passed in Maryland starts an avalanche of Racist laws designed to keep the Africans as slaves. The Maryland law states that A baptism as a christian does not make a slave a freeman. Though when considered, this law is in simple words terrible it is the mildest of laws to come.

Wounds like these became common place as more laws were instated that drew an even thicker line between whites and blacks. Soon after the law in Maryland was created in the 1660's laws were passed to put a halt to interracial sexual and marital relations. Black slaves indentured or otherwise could not own land and soon could not bare arms or travel without written permission. And in 1669 a law was passed saying that it was no longer illegal to kill an unruly slave in the course of punishment. In the same year Virginia voted to banish all white men and women who had married a black, mulatto or Indian. Another law passed that year stated that slave owners could not free their slaves unless the free men were deported from the colony, making it almost impossible for slaves to survive without their masters even if they were freed.

  • 1660-1680 Denigrating laws are passed that forbid interracial sexual, and marital relations,


"Digital History." Digital History. N.p., 2012. Web. 12 Sept. 2012. <>.
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