1 Jul 2022


Lives of Slaves in Colonial North America

Format: Chicago

Academic level: College

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Words: 591

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Slavery was a common practice in many parts of the world, including America. Even though slavery was rampant in South American, the act was also practiced in colonial North America. Specifically, the Chesapeake region was an area in colonial North America that is still remembered for slavery. It was a gateway for many slaves, especially black slaves from African countries. There were also some elements of white slavery in the region. Nonetheless, white servitudes were treated differently from their black counterparts. 

Black servitude developed in the Chesapeake area mainly because of the increased demand for tobacco in the region. Consequently, the demand for laborers significantly increased, which led to a shift in black slavery. At the same time, the region was experiencing an influx of black slaves who had escaped from the south and other parts of America. Free blacks and white sympathizers helped black slaves to travel through the Underground Railroad to reach their freedom. 1 This was possible because the Chesapeake area borders free slave states and states that practices slavery. However, due to increased demand for tobacco in the area, blacks who had escaped from slavery were required to sell their freedom for between two and seven years to be transported to some parts of North America that did not practice slavery. Specifically, black people were forced to work in return for the cost of their voyage. As a result, the black servitude developed in the Chesapeake area. 

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The main difference between black and white servitudes in the Chesapeake area is that the latter were treated better than the former. 2 Even though both white and black servitudes were treated better than slaves, white servitude was allowed to own a small piece of land by their masters while at the same time they were allowed to marry after seeking permission from their owners. 3 Besides, unlike white servitudes, their black counterparts were not allowed to make money for themselves. Hence, white servitudes were treated better than their black servitude in the Chesapeake area. 

Therefore, the servitude system in the Chesapeake area was mainly about balancing economic and humanity. Slave owners wanted to achieve their economic growth while at the same time they embraced the freedom of slaves. Masters ensured that black and white servitudes worked on the tobacco plantation to earn their freedom and to meet their basic needs. Black servitudes benefited by getting free voyage to their freedom. White servitudes, on the other hand, were able to meet their basic needs after working in tobacco plantations. 4 

Finally, slaves used different ways to resist slavery. The most common resistance to slavery was a slave rebellion, where slaves tried to gain their freedom through violence and killing some of their masters. However, slave rebellions were not most successful mainly because they were not well planned and organized. At the same time, internal betrayal made many slave rebellions unsuccessful. Nonetheless, numerous slave rebellions initiated the anti-slavery movement, which finally led to the end of slavery. Running away was a common tactic that was used by slaves to resist slavery. Running away was not always successful because slaves had limited freedom of movement in the country. 5 Besides, slaves used non-violent boycotts to resist slavery. They could often claim that they were sick, worked at a slow pace, and broke tools to avoid working. Although the tactic worked, it did not lead to significant impact, especially based on the end of slavery. Therefore strategies that were used by slaves to resist slavery were largely unsuccessful. 


Galenson, David W. "White servitude and the growth of black slavery in colonial America." The Journal of Economic History 41, no. 1 (2009): 39-47. 

Snyder, Mark R. "The Education of Indentured Servants in Colonial America." Journal of Technology Studies 33, no. 2 (2007): 65-72. 

1 Snyder, Mark R, "The Education of Indentured Servants in Colonial America." Journal of Technology Studies 33, no. 2 (2007), 67. 

2 Galenson, David W, "White servitude and the growth of black slavery in colonial America." The Journal of Economic History 41, no. 1 (2009), 40. 

3 Ibid., 43 . 

4 .Ibid., 46

5 Galenson, David W, "White servitude and the growth of black slavery in colonial America." The Journal of Economic History 41, no. 1 (2009), 47. 

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StudyBounty. (2023, September 15). Lives of Slaves in Colonial North America.


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