Slavery and Servitude in the Colonies

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Describe the development of slavery in colonial America.

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Slavery in America began in the Virginia colony. During the early colonial period, there was a reliance on indentured servitude to supply workers for large tobacco plantations. The first of these plantations began in the Jamestown settlement between 1613 and 1615. The first slaves in the colony were brought by the Dutch in 1616.

Slaves in the colonies were initially treated comparably to indentured servants. However, after an uprising in Virginia and unrest in other colonies in which slaves and indentured servants had united, there was a push to elevate indentured servants. This was done by granting indentured servants more rights while also establishing that African slaves and any children of these slaves were to be considered chattel for the duration of their lives.

This change increased the attractiveness of slaves for plantation owners because, though the initial cost of a slave was higher than the initial cost of an indentured servant, a slave would not be freed and the owner could keep any children of a slave for free. This led to slavery displacing indentured servitude as the preferred form of bondage-labor.

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