What Were Indentured Servants?
Indentured servants were European immigrants (people from one country that permanently settle in another) who paid for their passage to America by agreeing to work from four to seven years for an employer. Most indentured servants were impoverished (poor) English, Irish, Welsh, and German men. After working the required amount of time for a master, they gained their freedom. Indentured servitude, which was especially prevalent in the American colonies during the seventeenth century, was either voluntary or involuntary. Voluntary indentured servants were often trained in a craft or skill, whereas involuntary indentured servants labored as farm workers, especially in the southern colonies where rice, tobacco, and cotton farming required a large unskilled labor force. When the number of indentured servants immigrating to the colonies decreased because of improved economic conditions in Europe during the late 1600s, American colonists found a new source of labor in African slaves. However, indentured servitude still exists in some countries of the world, particularly in Africa and Asia.
Further Information: Bennett, Lerone, Jr. "The First Generation." Ebony. February, 1995, pp. 76–80; Indentured Servants and Transported Convicts. [Online] Available http://www.stratfordhall.org/ed-servants.htm, October 30, 2000; Masland, Tom and others. "Slavery." Newsweek. May 4, 1992, pp. 30–35.