Next-Gen

Indentur ed Servitude

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by emilnall
Last updated 1 year ago

Discipline:
Social Studies
Subject:
African-American History
Grade:
10,11,12

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Indentured Servitude

Being a woman or black, or even both, was extremely difficult during this time period. These people faced many hardships. If a slave woman were to have children, her children would become slaves as well. Some women went as far as to kill their own children to keep them from becoming slaves. Even if a white woman had a child with a black man, the child would still have to serve thirty years. Not only did the whites dislike the blacks socially, but also it had an affect on the political views of both races. There were many grudges against marrying, or just having relations with slaves, and most of these offenses came with a fine. Black slaves were also not allowed to testify in court “alongside the white man” for some time.

“There are a number of court cases concerning slave women who either killed their masters who forced them to have sexual relations or killed the children rather than have the children enslaved.” “This amendment stated that a free white woman who had a bastard child by a Negro or mulatto man had to pay fifteen pounds sterling within one month of the birth. If she could not pay, she would become an indentured servant for five years. Whether or not the fine was paid, however, the child would be bound in service for thirty years.”

Late 1600'sUntil the late 1600s, the labor supply for the Chesapeake plantations was indentured servants, not enslaved Africans.

1648-1652 Probably due to political strife in England rather than poverty, George Alsop worked as an indentured servant in Maryland from 1648 to 1652.

People had different accounts of their overall experiences as indentured servants. Some, including George Alsop, declared that moving to the new world and leaving England behind was an escape, saying “Servitude, he insists from experience, "checks in the giddy and wild-headed youth" of England, offering them a chance to escape a doomed undisciplined life for the opportunity to thrive in America.”. James Revels would disagree saying that his move to the new world, causing nothing but turmoil and despair in his life. Another account from the six men of the Virginia uprising would compare to Revels’ opinions.

1767 Little is known about Revels, and no published edition of the poem exists before 1767, yet scholars generally agree that "The Poor Unhappy Transported Felon's Sorrowful Account" is a document of the 1600s.

1670Assembly determined that “Noe Negroes nor Indians to buy Christian servants.”

Essential Question:Were there discrepancies between agreed-upon political ideals and the treatment of these groups? Indentured servants were treated more as working animals than people. In most cases the payment they received for their work did not suffice for their labor. Indentured servants were not as socially outcast as slaves, but it wasn’t much better opportunity wise for them.

From the accounts of an indentured servant, the conditions of living as an indentured servant on Virginia were anything but ideal. To quote a servant Richard Frethorne on his meals "…since I came out of the ship I never ate anything but peas, and loblollie (that is, water gruel). As for deer or venison I never saw any since I came into this land. There is indeed some fowl, but we are not allowed to go and get it, but must work hard both early and late for a mess of water gruel and a mouthful of bread and beef. A mouthful of bread for a penny loaf must serve for four men which is most pitiful.” And on the health and protection of his fellow workers “or we came but twenty for the merchants, and they are half dead just; and we look every hour when two more should go. Yet there came some four other men yet to live with us, of which there is but one alive; and our Lieutenant is dead, and [also] his father and his brother. And there was some five or six of the last year’s twenty, of which there is but three left, so that we are fain to get other men to plant with us; and yet we are but 32 to fight against 3000 if they should come. And the nighest help that we have is ten mile of us, and when the rogues overcame this place [the] last [time] they slew 80 persons.”

-For a brief period during the 16th century, Virginia was the only English colony in North America.In 1650, Connecticut legalized slavery.-Virginia was one of the first states to acknowledge slavery in its laws, initially enacting such a law in 1661.Negro womens children to serve according to the condition of the mother. -Before the Civil War, slaves and indentured servants were considered personal property, and they or their descendants could be sold or inherited like any other personalty.-Virginia passed its first miscegenation law in 1691 as part of “An act for suppressing outlying Slaves.”-After the slave trade officially ended, many slave owners tried to ensure that sufficient numbers of slaves were available to work their plantations.-Until the late 1600s, the labor supply for the Chesapeake plantations was indentured servants, not enslaved Africans.-Of the 120,000 emigrants to the Chesapeake colonies in the 1600s, 90,000 were indentured servants. -By the late 1660s Virginia could no longer depend on English indentured servants for forced labor, and its transition to a slave-based economy began. -Here we read two opposing views of servitude by former servants in the Chesapeake colonies, followed by the punishments ordered by a Virginia court after a servant uprising in 1640.-Planters in early seventeenth-century Virginia had bountiful amounts of land and a profitable crop in tobacco, but they needed labor to till their fields.-These young men and women signed indentures, or contracts, for four to seven year terms of work in exchange for their passage to North America. -Those without capital suffered particularly precarious situations with the lack of supplies and loss of leaders.-Miscegenation laws, forbidding marriage between races, were prevalent in the South and the West.-This is evinced by a court decision from 1630, the first court decision in which a Negro woman and a white man figured prominently.-The laws that restricted slaves or indentured servants generally addressed the owners and penalized them for breaking the law.-In 1865, the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution ended slavery and involuntary servitude.-White women were often involved in litigation concerning slaves through the workings of the dower laws. -There are a number of court cases concerning slave women who either killed their masters who forced them to have sexual relations or killed the children rather than have the children enslaved.

Late 1600'sBy the late 1660s Virginia could no longer depend on English indentured servants for forced labor, and its transition to a slave-based economy began. From only 150 black slaves in 1640, Virginia had nearly 3,000 slaves forty years later, a transition we will consider in the next topic, POWER. In viewing the two indenture documents, note the contract agreements, the signatures, and the template form.

Men who had slaves or indentured servants had very strict ownership of these people. In almost every case these slaves and servants were under an oath of ownership to their masters. In the event that a servant or slave was to break that oath or contract to their master they were punished and given more time to their sentence. The Servant Uprising in Virginia is an historic example of such. Six servants and an African American slave all owned by a Mr. Reginolds fled from their master on the night of July 18th, 1640 in an attempt to escape their servitude. They were found sailing down a river and brought back to their master. They were each punished to a year of working with a shackle on their leg, and after they were sentenced to serve their entire colony for up to seven years; some receiving less time than others.

In the case of many indentured servants, they either had no other choice or did not want to be in this situation. More often than not, the people who came to the new world as servants did not like what they were rewarded with. They felt that the work they did and the lives they lead was not made up for in what they would receive. James Revel states his opinion clearly saying, “Young men all with speed your lives amend, Take my advice as one that was your friend, For tho' so light of it you do make here, Hard is your lot if you do once get there.”


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