The Beginnings of Slavery in the American Society
Back in the 1500s, America was known to the Europeans as “The New World." This was the era when the ruling monarchs of Great Britain, Spain, France and the Netherlands had been sending out ships across the seas to explore new lands, which they could add to their territories.
On May 13, 1607, the first English settlers were brought by the Virginia Company of London to an island near the Chesapeake Bay and established the first English colony, which they called Jamestown Island (Virginia). The settlers were supposed to work and explore the rich vastness of the land, from which products for future trades could be derived.
However, many of the men folk who came to settle in Jamestown were not too keen on the idea of tilling the soil but instead preferred to look for gold. Based on preserved historical records and archaeological research, the first group of settlers comprised 104 men, of which at least half were British gentlemen or councilors, while the other half were divided into craftsmen or those with skills, and about twenty-five non-skilled laborers.
Through this piece of information, readers could easily perceive that the menfolk who arrived in the South did not have the physical prowess or skills to perform the laborious task of clearing the wilderness for agricultural purposes.
Perhaps they had hoped to harness the native settlers of the land in similar ways by which some explorers had done in the other parts of the globe. However, the Algonquian Indian natives were immediately hostile and made it quite clear that they had no intentions of allowing the foreigners to stay.
Unfortunately, most of the original colonists suffered and died from famine, disease and attacks from hostile Indian natives. However, Captain John Smith arrived and became the head of the colony. He immediately issued an order that required all men to work if they wanted to have food, which they could eat in order to live.
Captain John Smith's arrival also brought forth a semblance of prosperity and peaceful accord with the Algonquian Indians. It was during his time when a hard-working and successful crop grower named James Rolfe married Pocahontas, the legendary favored daughter of the Algonquian tribal chief. This denotes that the Native American Indians were not really savage as depicted but were capable of living peacefully and harmoniously with the settlers, if given the right treatment and conditions.
By 1614, Virginia-grown tobacco had become a source of economic success for Jamestown, and it spurred the arrival of more colonists. In August of 1619, the Dutch ship White Lion arrived and traded 20 Africans for food. This became the turning point for the colonial settlers of Jamestown Island.
The arrival of the African slave trade in Jamestown, Virginia, was more than welcome, as it provided the labor that was badly needed for the development of other crop plantations and land parcels.
However, during those days, slave trade was not for a lifetime of servitude but for a form of work called “indentured services".