Slavery in the Chesapeake

Tuesday, October 8, 2013
7:00 pm - 8:30 pm (EST) Enter Classroom Enter Forum


John Coombs
Associate Professor of History
Hampden-Sydney College

About the Seminar

Slavery entered America through the Chesapeake when, in 1619, a Dutch warship delivered twenty and “odd Negroes” to the English settlement at Jamestown. Gradually, more “Negroes” were brought to the region, but throughout the seventeenth century their numbers remained small. Isolated on primitive plantations, they were given the most brutal and degrading work. Within a generation, however, plantation life had evolved to require household help and more skilled craftsmen. Larger, more stable communities of blacks arose in the Chesapeake and in them a distinctive subculture began to emerge, blending African and American traditions. But as black populations grew, the strictures that defined their lives became more formal and severe. In the 1660s Virginia and Maryland passed laws acknowledging that men, women, and children could live as slaves for life within their boundaries. In so doing they laid the legal foundations of slavery in the United States. How and why did slavery establish itself in the Chesapeake region? How did it evolve? And how did slavery there shape slavery everywhere in the colonies?

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Assigned Readings

  1. The English Precedents The English Voyages, (excerpt) and several royal proclamations, et al.
  2. “20. and odd Negroes” Mostly correspondence.
  3. Slave Trading to Virginia Correspondence.
  4. The Law of Slavery.
  5. The Growth of Slavery. Probate inventories.
    1. Col. Argoll Yeardley, 1655.
    2. Lt. Col. Thomas Ludlowe, 1661.
    3. Maj. Robert Beverley, 1687.
    4. Col. Joseph Bridger, 1686.
    5. Mr. Joseph Ring, 1704.
    6. Col. Ralph Wormeley, 1701.

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