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Modern Voices
Margaret Washington on the change from indentured labor towards enslaved labor
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Q: What are some of the issues that begin to start changing the colony towards an enslaved labor force, versus the indentured labor force?
Margaret Washington

A: Virginia becomes very heavily engaged in tobacco. Tobacco is a crop that needs a tremendous amount of laborers, far more laborers than the Virginians were able to get from Great Britain. The supply of Africans in this colonial era seemed [inexhaustible]. And the African merchants and traders were willing to provide the Europeans with as many laborers as they needed. So why bother with indentured servants who, after 7, 18, or 21 years [would have to be freed], when you could have Africans serve their lifetime, and serve in perpetuity through their children?
Margaret Washington
Associate Professor of History
Cornell Universiy

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