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menuAmerican Social History Project  ·    Center for Media and Learning

  • Historical Eras > Colonization and Settlement (1621-1750) (x)

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Colonial Virginia Laws on Slavery and Servitude

From the earliest days of the Virginia colony, laws governing the ownership of slaves were put in place to define the legal status of slaves and their masters and regulate interactions between them. In this series of laws dating from 1639 to 1705, [...]

Slave Laws in British Colonial New York, 1664—1731

As the population of enslaved Africans grew, colonial elites in New York passed laws to restrict the activities and movements of black residents. These laws were similar to laws passed in Virginia and Maryland, indicating that white fears of slave [...]

An Indentured Servant Testifies About the Existence of a Slave Conspiracy in New York

In 1741, a series of fires broke out in Manhattan, the most serious of which was within the walls of the governor's home in Fort George. After a slave was seen fleeing the site of one of the fires, rumors of a "Negro conspiracy" soon swept the city [...]

Many Passages: The Voyage of the Slave Ship Brookes

In this activity, students use facts and make inferences to create narratives about the journey of the slave ship Brookes. Students work in groups to create narratives from one of three different perspectives: Captain, Sailor, or Captive.

Slave Advertisements in Colonial New York

As in the southern colonies, New York newspapers were filled with slave advertisements that provide many details about the life and labor of enslaved New Yorkers. Historian Jill Lepore calculates that 253 advertisements for runaway slaves and [...]

A Slave's Walk in Colonial New York

By 1740, almost twenty percent of New York's population was African American and roughly half of white households owned at least one slave.  While slaves were forced to live and work alongside whites, they sought out the company of other [...]

New York Burning: Liberty, Slavery, Conspiracy in Eighteenth-Century Manhattan (Excerpt)

In the following passage, historian Jill Lepore carefully considers an enslaved man's walk through 1740s Manhattan. The slave, who was known as Pedro, described a Sunday walk through Manhattan as part of a confession that he gave during the [...]

An Apprentice's Indenture Contract

Many English settlers arrived in the colonies as indentured servants. Because poor men and women could not afford the cost of travel to North America, they bound themselves for four to seven years’ labor in return for passage across the [...]

Scaffolded Reading of "Drawing of an African Burial Ground Grave In Situ"

This brief activity leads students through analysis of an archaeologist's sketch of the grave of an African buried in colonial New York.

Comparison of Slaves and Servants in Colonial New York worksheet

This worksheet helps students compare slaves and indentured servants in colonial society, in particular in New York. It is used as part of the activity "Comparison of Slaves and Servants in Colonial New York."