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Indentured Servants and African Slaves

It is well-known that both indentured servants and African slaves were used as the sources of the Americas labor. Let’s see what an indentured servant and African slave mean and their main differences.

So, indentured servants were considered to be young, unskilled laborers, both men and women under age 21, working according to the contract for an employer within a fixed period of time, as usual it was from three to seven years. Instead the laborers could have for free the transportation, clothing and food, as well as lodging and other necessities while they were indentured. As usual, they became helpers on farms or house servants and they were not paid wages.

African slaves were black men or women brought from Africa and treated as somebody’s property and they forced to work. A slave can be held against his or her will from the time when he or she was captured, purchased or born, and not ever having the right to leave, not to work, or to simply demand the work compensation.

While comparing them, the first thing that is clearly seen is that the indentured servants could hope for their freedom and after the fixed period of time they became free and could have the chance to build their lives how they wanted while the African slaves had to be slaves for all their life.

However, they had many things in common; both slaves and servants didn’t have the right to marry without their owner permission, they were also subject to physical punishment, and saw their obligation to labor enforced by the courts. Moreover, once the servant females or slave women became pregnant, they continued to work. Besides, both male and female slaves and servants could be the violence subject and it even could result in death.

Despite the fact that the situation of both African slaves and indentured servants was practically the same, the time passed and the status of these two groups had changed a lot.

As we can see after the year 1700, there were a lot of African slaves and fewer servants and that was the reason why the servants got a privileged stratum and had lighter work as well as the more skilled tasks.

In addition, the colonists tried to turn to the African slaves because of one more reason. When servants got their freedom, they became competition. Because of this factor, in the early 1680s, the colonists turned to African slaves. As a result, firstly, there were practically no differences between these two types of help, but within the time it were the African slaves who became the primary source of help for the colonists.