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The Terrible Transformation. From indentured servitude to slavery in America. Focus Question. Why was labor so important in colonial society?. Convoluted relationships. “Mr. Taylor and I have divided our corn and I am very glad of it for now I know mine own ground.” Anthony the Negro

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the terrible transformation

The Terrible Transformation

From indentured servitude to slavery in America

focus question
Focus Question
  • Why was labor so important in colonial society?
convoluted relationships
Convoluted relationships

“Mr. Taylor and I have divided our corn and I am very glad of it for now I know mine own ground.”

Anthony the Negro

Virginia Court Document, 1645

society based on indentured labor
Society Based on Indentured Labor
  • Large quantity of English Poor
    • Lacked ability to find work
    • Willing to accept servitude
  • Low life expectancies in Virginia (average 4 years)
  • Monopoly on the slave trade drives up the price for slaves
importance of indentured labor
Importance of Indentured Labor
  • With indentured labor readily available, the cost of indentured servants was low.
  • Why turn to slave labor?
  • Remains common in

New England


the morgan theory
The Morgan Theory
  • Proposed and promoted by Edmund Morgan
  • English colonies turned to slavery to prevent class conflict
    • Myth of Pristine Beginnings
      • Paradise turned to wickedness by elites
    • American Slavery, American Freedom
geography of virginia
Geography of Virginia
  • Tidewater
    • Rolling fields along coast
    • Rich black soil
    • Easy to till
    • Plantation style agriculture
  • Piedmont
    • Rocky foothills of the Appalachians
    • Poor, rocky soil
    • Good only for subsistence farming
social classes
Social Classes
  • Planters claim Tidewater region
    • Plantations develop
    • Bring over more servants, claim more land
  • Freed servants forced to claim land in the Piedmont
    • Remain poor
    • Many give up their land to work for the Planters
role of house of burgesses
Role of House of Burgesses
  • First colonial assembly (1619)
  • Burgesses were unpaid, met during harvest
    • Inequitable tax structure
      • Refused to tax property
      • Levied a head tax
  • Refused to support frontier

(Piedmont) requests

  • Meanwhile Virginia faced

economic challenges

bacon s rebellion
Bacon’s Rebellion
  • Piedmont farmers rose in revolt
    • Reaction to leadership and hard times
    • Refused to make peace with Native Americans
    • Raided friendly Indians
  • Sparked a series of Indian wars
    • Forced high taxes
    • Bacon refused to stop the fighting
march on jamestown
March on Jamestown
  • Bacon led a march of Piedmont farmers on Jamestown
    • Largely the poor, former Servants, Indentured Servants, slaves
  • Burned Jamestown to the ground
  • Bacon dies in the winter of 1676/1677
  • Revolt collapses
tidewater farmers return
Tidewater Farmers Return
  • Needs for labor still very intense
    • Indentured Servants not as attractive
      • Will settle in the Piedmont
      • Eventually will overrun the Planters
  • Virginia needs a permanent unfree labor force
    • Tie the poor to the Planters by granting privileges
    • Divide and conquer
  • Morgan thesis fails to take into shifts in society
    • Economic shifts within England
    • Social shifts in the colonies
  • Morgan heavily influenced by contemporary politics
    • Thesis developed in the 1960s
    • Class struggle
    • Civil Rights struggle
economic model
Economic Model
  • Pool of indentured labor dried up
    • Learned of the horror of life in Virginia
    • Public works jobs existed in England
      • Great Fire of London
  • Life expectancies rose (by 1650, average was 20 years)
  • Royal African Company lost its monopoly in 1689
transformation to a slave society
Transformation to a Slave Society
  • Costs of Indentured servants rising
  • Costs of slaves falling
  • Labor needs met by slaves, not servants
  • Southern economy based on slave labor
south carolina
South Carolina
  • Colony of a colony
    • Founded by sons of Barbados planters
    • Lack of land in Barbados
    • Almost all of Barbados given over to sugar plantations
    • Younger sons sent to South Carolina to raise rice
  • Take the Barbados Slave Codes at the founding
  • Slavery deeply part of Colonial South Carolina