Slavery and Servitude in the Colonies

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Slavery began in colonial America for both economic and cultural reasons. After Jamestown in Virginia turned to growing tobacco, plantation owners looked for a source of reliable labor. The first African slaves arrived in the Virginia colony in 1619, and slaves were also used to grow sugar, rice, and other...

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Slavery began in colonial America for both economic and cultural reasons. After Jamestown in Virginia turned to growing tobacco, plantation owners looked for a source of reliable labor. The first African slaves arrived in the Virginia colony in 1619, and slaves were also used to grow sugar, rice, and other labor-intensive crops. White indentured slaves were also used at first to help grow crops, but Bacon's Rebellion in colonial Virginia in 1676 caused many elite plantation owners to impose an increasingly harsh color line between indentured servants and slaves. In this popular uprising, slaves and indentured servants united, and the elite imposed a color line between slavery and indentured servitude to break the solidarity between the two groups. In addition, slavery built on an unfortunate pre-existing racism that many Europeans felt towards Africans, but the imposition of slavery was largely driven by economics.

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