Slavery and Servitude in the Colonies

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Why were enslaved Africans needed in the colonies?

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Though every colony had at least some enslaved people, the colonies that took in the most African slaves were those that raised staple crop for the Atlantic market. In North America, these colonies were the Chesapeake colonies, Virginia and Maryland, which raised tobacco, and the Low Country (South Carolina and eventually Georgia) which grew rice. These were both very labor-intensive crops, and planters figured they could most profitably exploit enslaved African laborers. There was a social dimension to this as well. In Virginia especially, the first labor force was not enslaved but indentured. These people, if they survived, could gain freedom and land after a predetermined term. Over time, these people became a subversive force in the colony, and the colony slowly turned to African slaves. The colonies that most depended on enslaved African labor were the sugar colonies in the Caribbean. People labored under such brutal conditions, and so little opportunity to gain land existed, in places like Barbados that no indentured servants would go there. These colonies imported people directly from Africa at a dizzying rate that reflected the astonishingly high death rates of slaves on the islands. So the colonists made the decision to import enslaved African people because the work was so labor intensive, and slave labor seemed the cheapest and most socially stable alternative. It should be noted that in many places in the Americas, Native peoples were enslaved. But because they lacked immunity to many diseases, and because they found it easier to run away and blend into the countryside (and because some reformers favored enslaving blacks instead) Europeans turned to the African slave trade for labor. 

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