- Term Papers and Free Essays

Slavery In Colonial America

Essay by   •  March 24, 2011  •  1,757 Words (8 Pages)  •  4,530 Views

Essay Preview: Slavery In Colonial America

Report this essay
Page 1 of 8

Slavery in Colonial America

Slavery was created in pre-revolutionary America at the start of the seventeenth century. By the time of the Revolution, slavery had undergone drastic changes and was nothing at all what it was like when it was started. In fact the beginning of slavery did not even start with the enslavement of African Americans. Not only did the people who were enslaved change, but the treatment of slaves and the culture that each generation lived in, changed as well.

When America was first founded the colonists believed that they could do one of two things. They could either ask for entire families and groups of people to come over from England to start family farms and businesses to help the colony prosper. The other option was to take advantage of the lower class people and promise them land and freedom for a couple of years of servitude (Charles Johnson et al, Africans in America 34). Obviously the second option was used and this was the start of indentured servitude in colonial America. The indentured servants that came from England were given plenty of accommodations in exchange for their servitude. They were also promised that after their time of service was complete that they would receive crops, land, and clothing to start their new found lives in America. Men, children, and even most criminals, rushed to the ports hoping to be able to find work in America and soon start their new life. However, a large quantity of them either died on the voyage over, died from diseases, or died from the intensity of their work, before their servitude was complete (Johnson et al, Africans, 34). America finally began to show signs of prosperity due to the crop, tobacco. The only problem now was that the majority of the workers were dying from being severely punished and overworked. The colony was in desperate need of people who could work the fields to help continue the growth of their cash crop, tobacco. In 1619, a Spanish ship containing some Africans was captured and then brought to Jamestown, where the Africans were traded for food (Johnson et al, Africans, 36). Little did anyone know but this one trade would shape the course of history for decades to come.

The first African Americans that were put to work in Jamestown were not treated in the way that people traditionally think of early slavery. In fact they were treated just as the indentured servants that had come from England were treated. This does not mean that they were treated with any sympathy or given easy work, but that they just were not discriminated by the color of their skin. In the beginning of the 1600s all servants had the same dream, to one day be free. In 1641, a black slave by the name of Anthony Johnson, was freed and given his own land to start his new life as an American (Johnson et al, Africans, 39). At this point in time the only things that separated people were if you were an owner or a servant and if you were a Christian or not. At some point in the mid 1700s something changed the way that the colonists saw things. All of a sudden there was no longer equal treatment of white and black slaves, the darker the color of ones skin was the worse off their life became. In 1640, three slaves tried escaping to Maryland but were unsuccessful, when they were brought upon the court two of the men were given an extra year of servitude and the other was sentenced to slavery for the rest of his life. The first two men were white and the third was black, this was one of the first ever instances of racism (Johnson et al, Africans, 40-41). Separation is one of the believed reasons for the changes. The colonists were hoping to turn the white slaves against the black in an effort to prevent the slaves from joining together and using their mass number to take over the colonies (Johnson et al, Africans, 40). These changes sparked a new era of slavery in the colonies.

Colonist no longer viewed African Americans as people but instead as more of cattle, or something to be owned. Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Virginia were of the first states to legalize slavery, and Virginia soon after stated that any child born from a slave would become a slave (Johnson et al, Africans, 41). Mothers and fathers no longer had the opportunity to give their child the gift of freedom, having a great impact on their society. As time passed things did not get any better, laws were passed giving people the right to punish a slave until death, whites could no longer marry blacks, and runaway slaves were allowed to be killed. Not only could the owners kill their slaves but they would also benefit because for every slave that was killed, the owner would receive two tons of tobacco for compensation. By the eighteenth century the colonies economy relied greatly on the buying, selling, and maintenance of black slaves (Johnson et al, Africans, 46). With crops prospering, the need for more slaves was increasing at an alarming rate, especially in the “sugar” colonies. In fact, in 1680, the average number of slaves shipped out of Bristol was eighteen thousand a year (Johnson et al, Africans, 77). The majority of slaves that were brought to America by boat arrived at Sullivan’s Island in Charles Town Carolina. When they arrived the slaves were sent through quarantine, judged for their worth and in most cases would all be sold on the same day they arrived. Slave trade was so popular at the time that farmers would come from hundreds of miles away in hope of finding a new servant. With the increase in the amount of slaves there was also an increase in the amount of punishment that an owner could inflict on his servants. Courts were able to order a slaves death or even the removal of a body part. Land owners had begun to see that it was cheaper for them to lose a slave and get a new one than to try and keep them alive if they were unruly (Johnson et al, Africans, 81). As the punishments began to



Download as:   txt (9.7 Kb)   pdf (115.5 Kb)   docx (12 Kb)  
Continue for 7 more pages »
Only available on
Citation Generator

(2011, 03). Slavery In Colonial America. Retrieved 03, 2011, from

"Slavery In Colonial America" 03 2011. 2011. 03 2011 <>.

"Slavery In Colonial America.", 03 2011. Web. 03 2011. <>.

"Slavery In Colonial America." 03, 2011. Accessed 03, 2011.