Name: Mr. Dziedzic due: 9/23/2013 Objectives

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NAME: ____________________ Mr. Dziedzic DUE: 9/23/2013


  • Students will compare and contrast European American indentured servitude to African American servitude.

  • Students will write an opinion essay about whether European American indentured servitude was the same as or different from African American servitude.


If you are an American of European descent and your ancestors came to this continent during the 1600s or 1700s, there is a 50 percent chance they came as indentured servants. It is estimated that one out of every two European colonists came to America under this condition.

STEP 1. Look up the definition of "indenture" in the dictionary and write it below:


STEP 2. Read the background information about Indentured Servitude in the colonies below.

YOU MUST Underline or highlight key words as you go!!!

BEFORE THE JOURNEY: "Many of the spirits [people who recruited indentured servants] haunted the London slums and those of Bristol and other seaports. It was not difficult to find hungry and thirsty victims who, over a dinner and much liquor, would sign anything before them. The spirit would then hustle his prey to his headquarters to be added to a waiting company of others, safely kept where they could not escape until a ship was ready for them. An easier way was to pick up a sleeping drunk from the gutter and put him aboard a vessel for America, where, with no indenture, he could be sold to his own disadvantage and with the American planter's gain. Children were valuable and could be enticed with candy to come along with a spirit. Sometimes they, and older people too, were seized by force."

THE JOURNEY: The ocean journey to America usually took eight to twelve weeks. Indentured servants were packed into the ships tightly, often being held in the hold without a chance to get fresh air. "Every two weeks at sea the [indentured servant] passengers received an allowance of bread. One man and his wife, having eaten their bread in eight days, staggered before the captain and begged him to throw them overboard, for they would otherwise starve before the next bread day. The captain laughed in their faces, while the ship's mate, even more of a brute, gave them a bag of sand and told them to eat that. The couple did die before the next ration of bread, but the captain charged the other passengers for the bread the two would have eaten if they had survived."

UPON ARRIVAL IN AMERICA: Some indentured servants had their contract of service worked out with waiting American colonists who would be their masters for four to seven years. Others, upon arrival, were bought and sold much in the same manner as slaves. An announcement in the Virginia Gazette read, "Just arrived at Leedstown, the Ship Justitia, with about one Hundred Healthy Servants, Men Women and Boys. . . . The Sale will commence on Tuesday the 2nd of April."

TREATMENT BY THEIR MASTERS: Indentured servants had few rights. They could not vote. Without the permission of their masters, they were not allowed to marry, to leave their houses or travel, nor buy or sell anything. Female indentured servants were often raped without legal recourse. Masters often whipped and beat their indentured servants. One man testified: "I have seen an Overseer beat a Servant with a cane about the head till the blood has followed, for a fault that is not worth the speaking of...."

WORK IN AMERICA: In the 1600s, most indentured servants were put to work in the tobacco fields of Virginia and Maryland. This was hard manual labor under the grueling hot summer sun, under which Europeans were not accustomed to working. Overseers were often cruel, beating the servants to make them work faster and harder.

AFTER CONTRACT WAS COMPLETED: Although many masters craftily figure out ways to extend an indentured servant's bondage (through accusing the servant of stealing, impregnating a female indenture servant, etc.), most indentured servants who survived the first four to seven years in America were freed. The master was required (depending upon the rules of the colony) to provide his former servant with the following: clothing, two hoes, three barrels of corn, and fifty acres of land.

Source: Multicultural Activities for the American History Classroom.

STEP 3. Read the background information about Slavery in the colonies below.
YOU MUST Underline or highlight key words as you go!!!
The African Slave Trade and the Middle Passage
10 to 12 million Africans who were sold into slavery from the 15th through the 19th Centuries. Along the west coast of Africa, from the Cameroons in the south to Senegal in the north, Europeans built some sixty forts that served as trading posts. European sailors seeking riches brought rum, cloth, guns, and other goods to these posts and traded them for human beings. This human cargo was transported across the Atlantic Ocean and sold to New World slave owners, who bought slaves to work their crops.

European traders such as Nicolas Owen waited at these forts for slaves; African traders transported slaves from the interior of Africa. Equiano and others found themselves sold and traded more than once, often in slave markets. African merchants, the poor, royalty -- anyone -- could be abducted in the raids and wars that were undertaken by Africans to secure slaves that they could trade. The slave trade devastated African life. Culture and traditions were torn asunder, as families, especially young men, were abducted. Guns were introduced and slave raids and even wars increased.

After kidnapping potential slaves, merchants forced them to walk in slave caravans to the European coastal forts, sometimes as far as 1,000 miles. Shackled and underfed, only half the people survived these death marches. Those too sick or weary to keep up were often killed or left to die. Those who reached the coastal forts were put into underground dungeons where they would stay -- sometimes for as long as a year -- until they were boarded on ships.

Just as horrifying as these death marches was the Middle Passage, as it was called -- the transport of slaves across the Atlantic. On the first leg of their trip, slave traders delivered goods from European ports to West African ones. On the "middle" leg, ship captains such as John Newton (who later became a foe of slavery), loaded their then-empty holds with slaves and transported them to the Americas and the Caribbean. A typical Atlantic crossing took 60-90 days but some lasted up to four months Upon arrival, captains sold the slaves and purchased raw materials to be brought back to Europe on the last leg of the trip. Roughly 54,000 voyages were made by Europeans to buy and sell slaves.

Africans were often treated like cattle during the crossing. On the slave ships, people were stuffed between decks in spaces too low for standing. The heat was often unbearable, and the air nearly unbreathable. Women were often used sexually. Men were often chained in pairs, shackled wrist to wrist or ankle to ankle. People were crowded together, usually forced to lie on their backs with their heads between the legs of others. This meant they often had to lie in each other's feces, urine, and, in the case of dysentery, even blood. In such cramped quarters, diseases such as smallpox and yellow fever spread like wildfire. The diseased were sometimes thrown overboard to prevent wholesale epidemics. Because a small crew had to control so many, cruel measures such as iron muzzles and whippings were used to control slaves.
Over the centuries, between one and two million persons died in the crossing. This meant that the living were often chained to the dead until ship surgeons such as Alexander Falconbridge had the corpses thrown overboard.

…Slavery became a highly profitable system for white plantation owners in the colonial South. In South Carolina, successful slave owners, such as the Middleton family from Barbados, established a system of full-blown, Caribbean-style slavery. The Middletons settled on land near Charleston, Carolina's main port and slave-trading capital. They took advantage of the fact that at the end of the 17th century, some of the earliest African arrivals had shown English settlers how rice could be grown in the swampy coastal environment. With cheap and permanent workers available in the form of slaves, plantation owners realized this strange new crop could make them rich.

As rice boomed, land owners found the need to import more African slaves to clear the swamps where the rice was grown and to cultivate the crop. Many of the Africans knew how to grow and cultivate the crop, which was alien to Europeans. By 1710, scarcely 15 years after rice came to Carolina, Africans began to out-number Europeans in South Carolina.

Slavery was rapidly becoming an entrenched institution in American society, but it took brutal force to imposed this sort of mass exploitation upon once-free people. As Equiano wrote, white and black lived together "in a state of war." The more harshly whites enforced racial enslavement, the more they came to fear black uprisings. As they became more fearful, they responded by further tightening the screws of oppression.

Carolina authorities developed laws to keep the African American population under control. Whipping, branding, dismembering, castrating, or killing a slave were legal under many circumstances. Freedom of movement, to assemble at a funeral, to earn money, even to learn to read and write, became outlawed.

At times the cruelty seemed almost casual. A Virginia slaveowner's journal entry for April 17, 1709 reads: "Anaka was whipped yesterday for stealing the rum and filling the bottle up with water. I said my prayers and I danced my dance. Eugene was whipped again for pissing in bed and Jenny for concealing it."

White fears of the people they kept enslaved were entirely justified. On September 9, 1739, an African man named Jemmy, thought to be of Angolan origin, led a march from Stono near Charleston toward Florida and what he believed would be freedom on Spanish soil. Other slaves joined Jemmy and their numbers grew to nearly 100. Jemmy and his companions killed dozens of whites on their way, in what became known as the Stono Rebellion. White colonists caught up with the rebels and executed those whom they managed to capture. The severed heads of the rebels were left on mile posts on the side of the road as a warning to others.

SOURCE: PBS, Africans in America,


Some historians argue that the life for European American indentured servants in America was very similar to that of African American slaves. Other historians disagree, arguing that there were significant differences. Based on the information given about indentured servants and what you know about slavery, create a Venn diagram that visually shows the similarities and differences of the lives of indentured servants and slaves in early America.


NAME: ____________________ Mr. Dziedzic DUE: 9/23/2013


Write an essay (at least 10 sentences), based on the information outlined in the Venn diagram, stating their opinion--whether YOU agree with:

  1. the historians who believe the lives of African American slaves and European American indentured servants were more similar than different,


  1. the historians who believe the lives of African American slaves and European American indentured servants were more different than similar.

Adapted from: Multicultural Activities for the American History Classroom.


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