Chesapeake Questions and Answers
by James Michener

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In the Chesapeake region during the mid- seventeenth century, how similar was the experience of an indentured servant to that of an enslaved person?

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The first enslaved Africans were transported to Virginia in 1619. Prior to that date, indenture by European Americans was the primary means of labor control. Indenture was a contract system, by which the individual committed to perform certain work for a specific period of time. Training or vocational education was one component of the indenture, which also stipulated that the master provide room and board. If the situation worked out successfully, the indentured laborer might accumulate a small amount of money over the course of the contract. Because the system was so widely used, the exact conditions of each worker varied as widely as the master who employed them. When it ended, the laborer might continue in the same situation or seek a similar one, or...

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