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The Evolution Of Slavery In Colonial America

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This essay written by Jon Butler explains the evolution of slavery, including the Africans' experiences in America, and the developing of a sense of community among these people.

The author mentions that in 1680 slavery was not very common in English colonies, later around 1700 this would change. One of the possible causes of it was the decrease of indentured servants in the colonies of Chesapeake and the Carolinas, in which the labor force was in high demand at that time. Captive Africans became easy to obtain due to the slave trading by merchants and ship owners in European countries. Europeans could purchase captives in African wars that they could later send as laborers to America.

Also, it is mention that some of the reasons why slavery and not indenture servitude became more profitable for the colonist were the lifetime services offered by Africans, besides the status they conveyed to their owners. Slavery became prominent especially in southern colonies, and slaves soon outnumbered the population of the colonies.

The great majority of Africans did not survive the sea journey across the Atlantic. Once in America, the life expectancy of who survived was limited to five years due to lack of resistance to European and American diseases, strenuous work, and brutality of the servants.

However, Africans' experiences in America helped to create a stronger community, and to develop a rich cultural expression among them. All of this made possible the developing of resistance against colonists where running away, work resistance, and rebellions became part of it.


1. Frederick M. Binder, David M. Reimers. The Way We Live. Essays and Documents in American Social History. 5th ed. Boston, New York: Houghton Miffin Company, 2004.



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