VI. Women as Indentured Servants
A new type of indentured servant was introduced to Virginia in 1619: Africans. While African labor eventually turned into slavery, Virginia’s Africans began as indentured servants. They were treated much the same as whites, with limitations on conditions and the hope of eventual freedom, until chattel slavery was codified into law three decades later. The confused status of their servitude – and the reality of white men having sex, often forced, with black women – became clear in 1662, when Virginia law declared: “Whereas some doubts have arisen whether children got by any Englishman upon a Negro woman should be slave or free, be it therefore enacted…that all children …shall be held bond or free according to the condition of the mother.” (8) Because race-based slavery was more profitable than indentured servitude, the number of female, and eventually the number of male, English indentured servants dwindled.
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