Social Groups in Colonial America Just as life in the three colonial regions was varied, life for the different social groups in colonial America differed as well. Let’s investigate the lives of large landowners, farmers, artisans, women, indenturedservants, free African Americans and enslavedAfricanAmericans (slaves) in the colonies.
p. 23 One of the wealthiest social positions in colonial America was held by largelandowners called planters. These powerful men lived predominantly in the southern colonies and were sometimes well educated. They owned huge farms called plantations. These impressive places were filled with barns, stables, gardens, wells, workshops, kitchens, mills and slave quarters. The plantations owned by these large landowners produced crops such as tobacco, sugar and indigo. A planter’s home was just as impressive as the property around it. It’s many bedrooms, dining rooms, drawing rooms and offices were usually filled with delicate china, elaborate furniture, expensive paintings, busy servants and wealthy visitors. To keep these large farms running smoothly, planters need huge numbers of low cost laborers to work in the fields that stretched as far as the eye could see. The cheapest labor came from indentured servants and slaves. Large landowners enjoyed a rich social culture that included music, dancing and many parties.
Farmers held another social position in colonial America. These men, though not wealthy like the planters, were often respected members of the community. They farmed the land according to their region and usually depended on family members for labor. Some even owned a few slaves. The poorer farmers were often indentured servants who had completed their contracts and had just enough money saved to buy a small piece of land.
Artisans were another social class in colonial America. These skilled craftsmen included silversmiths, carpenters, masons, shipwrights, coopers, bakers, butchers, blacksmiths, tailors and shoemakers. Artisans often lived above their shops which were located in villages, towns, cities and even plantations. Although not as wealthy as the large landowners, these men held respectable positions in colonial society.
Another social class included women. In colonial America a woman’s main roles were house-worker, homemaker or caretaker. A woman’s days were filled difficult and exhausting work such as cooking, cleaning, laundering, and making clothing and household goods like soap. Additionally, women were responsible for caring for children, doctoring the sick and tending livestock and kitchen gardens. Few women worked outside the home, but those that did were employed as house workers or seamstresses. Wealthy women were also responsible for the same household chores but often had servants to help them. Colonial women, whether rich or poor, had few privileges. They were often not given the opportunity to go to school and get an education and were not allowed to vote.
A less respected social class in colonial America consisted of indenturedservants. Indentured servants were usually young men and women in their teens and early twenties who wanted to go to the colonies. Not having enough money to buy passage to North America on a ship, they were allowed to borrow the money and sign a contract. These contracts stated that a young man or woman would work without pay for the person who paid for their passage. Contract periods usually were between three to five years. Indentured servants often worked as laborers, field hands, craftsmen and housekeepers. At the end of their contract period they were free and often given some money called “freedom dues.”
The least respected social class in colonial times consisted of enslaved African Americans (slaves). These men and women were captured in the native Africa and sold to slave traders. They were then shipped from Africa to the colonies. Once in America, they were sold into slavery. Unlike indentured servants, slaves were owned for life. Even children born to slaves would be slaves forever. Slaves were not seen as human beings and were considered the property of their owner, or master. They were given no rights or opportunities for an education and were often mistreated.
The final group of people in colonial America was freeAfricanAmericans. These free African Americans were able to own land. In addition, they had more economic freedom and could work for pay and decide how to spend their money. However, like women in colonial America, free African Americans were not allowed to vote.
Use your notes to complete the following:
One of the wealthiest social positions in colonial America was held by large landowners called __________________________.
These powerful men lived mainly in the _________________________and were usually well educated.
They owned huge farms called ___________________________.
To keep these farms running smoothly, planters needed huge numbers of low cost ________________ to work in fields that stretched as far as the eye could see.
______________________________ servants and _______________________________African Americans provided the cheapest labor.
Farmers, although they were not wealthy like the planters, were often _________________ members of the community.
They farmed the land of their region and often depended on ________________ members for labor.
______________________, which included silversmiths, carpenters, masons, shipwrights, coopers, bakers, butchers, blacksmiths, tailors, and shoemakers, often lived above their _______________.
These ___________________ were located in villages, towns, cities, and even plantations.
Although not as wealthy as the large landowners, artisans held ______________________ positions in colonial society.
In colonial America a woman’s main roles were ___________________ and ____________________.
Colonial women, whether rich or poor, had few _______________________.
Women were often not given the opportunity to go to ____________________ and were not allowed to _________________.
____________________ African Americans made up a smaller social group in Colonial America and had more economic freedom than both the indentured servants and the enslaved African Americans.
They were also allowed to own _____________________.
Free African Americans, however, were not allowed to _____________________.
Indentured servants would agree to work without pay for the person who paid for their ______________________________.
They often worked as laborers, field hands, craftsmen, and housekeepers and were given their ____________________ at the end of their contract.
The least respected social class was the ________________________ African Americans.
These men and women were ____________________ in their native country and _______________________ to slave traders.
Unlike indentured servants, enslaved African Americans were owned for _____________.
They were considered the property of their owner and were given no _________________ or opportunities for an _______________________.
Children of enslaved African Americans were also born into ____________________.