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KC‑2.1.II.A (KC)
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Unit 2: Learning Objective C

Video transcript

when last we left our English colonists at Jamestown things were finally starting to go their way Lord Delaware had successfully led English forces in their war of extinction against the nearby Algonquin tribe the Powhatan and John Rolfe had discovered that Virginia was a perfect place to grow tobacco so even though they didn't find gold in Virginia they found something that was almost as good and that was a luxury commodity that people in Europe were very eager to buy but tobacco was incredibly labor-intensive to grow and process so in this video let's talk a little bit more about what that need for labour meant as the Virginia Colony began to grow now in the last video I mentioned that the very first ship bearing enslaved Africans arrived in Jamestown in 1619 so just 12 years after jamestown was founded Africans had been brought to the area so this shows that enslaved Africans were some of the very first people who weren't of native origin in the new world and would help shape the English colonies pretty much from the very start but even though there were enslaved Africans in Virginia that early the system of broad race-based slavery that will really characterize the American South up until the Civil War didn't get started right away and there were a couple of reasons for that one was as we've mentioned many times it was not particularly healthy to live in this area you can see here this is pretty much all a giant swamp to this day you know some people joke that one of the reasons that Washington DC was founded here in this area of Virginia is that it is so unpleasant to be there they thought it would keep the American government smaller because legislators wouldn't actually want to go to the Capitol so a pretty good number of people who came to the new world in these early years died of mosquito-borne diseases so Swamp standing water mosquitoes leads to epidemics so say I'm an English planter and I want to plant a lot of tobacco many acres of tobacco so I'm going to need some people to help me now I have some choices I could purchase an enslaved African person from one of these ships that might cost me hundreds of pounds slaves are pretty expensive and since it's such an unhealthy environment in this area there is a reasonable chance that any person that I purchase might die within a year or so and then I'd lose my investment so this is a pretty cruel and terrible form of economics but if you're a planter in this time period this is exactly how you're thinking now my other option for help is to bring over white laborers from England and these are called indentured servants so perhaps there is a young man living in London he has lots of older brothers so he's not going to inherit anything he doesn't have much in the way of economic opportunities so he thinks I could go for a new start in the new world but I don't have the money to pay my passage on a ship across the Atlantic so what the planters would do is they would say alright I will pay your fare across the Atlantic and maybe that's 15 pounds say and in exchange you will work for me for a period of say three to seven years some indentures were shorter than that some were longer but this is a kind of a general guideline of how long they might work and at the end of that three years you will get land of your own and I'll give you some tools and clothes things you need to succeed and then you can be your own planter so this was a pretty good investment if you were a young person without many opportunities in England there is only one problem and it's the same problem we've been talking about all along it's that this is a swamp full of mosquitoes and you are quite likely to die in Virginia so this actually turned out to be a pretty good deal for the planters who were there early they also took advantage of something called the head right system which meant that they got 50 acres of land in Virginia and of course this is just Native Americans land that they're just appropriating for themselves but that's a whole separate issue so you got 50 acres more land every time you brought one person over from England so if you could afford to bring more and more of these indentured servants over from England you could amass huge huge amounts of property just gigantic tobacco plantations and early on in the history of indentured servitude very few of the servants a pretty small percentage actually lived to finish their indenture and to make good on this promise of land for themselves and tools and clothes to get started so this very quickly begins to build a social structure in Virginia where there are few planters who are extremely wealthy who own lots of land and then there's everybody else there's a large number of indentured servants you've only been there for a couple of years who may or may not live to see out the end of their indenture so this is kind of a large lower-class and then there are a handful of small farmers who managed to live through their period of indenture are now getting started on their own and then they're just a tiny smattering of enslaved Africans so just a few slaves in Virginia is in the early years of the 1600s so how do we get from a world where the vast majority of workers in the southern part of what will become the United States are white to a world where the vast majority of people working on plantations were enslaved black Africans we'll talk more about that in the next video
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