Timothy Breen on the relationship between black slaves and white indentured servants
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Q: Given that there is a situation of black and white indentured servants, how did they begin to interact or deal with one another? Is there any sense of a commonality that crosses over differences of race or ethnicity?
A: There are many ways that human beings divide themselves up. Class is one, [and] gender, race, ethnicity. There's a number of ways that people divide themselves up. And in early Virginia, race was a category that people recognized. Black people recognized difference, and sometimes, I would even argue, celebrated difference. But in this highly competitive, depressingly abusive world, poorer whites and poorer blacks -- people who were marginalized in this system of dependent labor -- oftentimes reached out to each other in ways that suggest that, at least in the first 50 or 60 years of Virginia, ...people of African background and English background were able to work together in ways that, again, in later period of American history, were impossible. Timothy H. Breen
William Smith Mason Professor of American History
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