Slavery in Virginia

Virginia’s decision to shift from indentured servants to slaves during the course of the 17th century was contributed by the belief that Africans and their “blackness” was cause by a curse and a natural infection of the blood. (http://www. dhr. history. vt. edu #2) Colonist believed that during the great flood Cham, son of Noe, disobeyed the commandment of God and the punishment was that he be cursed with blackness and infection of his blood and that the curse would be inherited to all of his offspring.

Colonists believed that Africans deserved no rights because of their cursed blood. Initially it was more profitable to bond indentured servants. The price for an indentured servant was less than for slaves brought from the middle passage. Neither proved to live long due to disease, malnutrition, and harsh working conditions. Virginian plantation owners needed labors for the tobacco crops and could not afford to invest in the more expensive slave. As the 17th century progressed the colonists, indentured servants, and slaves all lived longer lives.

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An indentured servant could live to fulfill this servitude and be freed to acquire and purchase his own land and establish his own farm. Demand for tobacco was declining and more farms meant more competition and less profit. Slaves, on the other hand, were not freed. When a slave was purchased, the ownership was for life. As slaves established communities amongst themselves and created families, the slave owner also owned the slave’s wife and any of their offspring. Slave owners could also rent or trade slaves at will to other plantation owners.

The use of slaves or indentured servants in other colonies was not as widespread as in Virginia. Colonists in other colonies would work their own land and usually grew only enough to support their own families. Most planters in other colonies could not afford to purchase either indentured servants or slaves. The success of the Virginian tobacco plantations relied heavily on the labor of indentured servants or slaves. For these reasons, the factors that influenced planters in Virginia to shift to slaves from indentures servants was unique to that colony.

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