Documents Related to Labor, Servitude and Slavery in Early America
Today, we want to highlight some of the documents in our collection that you might use to explore the varieties of unfree labor in early America, ranging from indentured servitude to the enslavement of native and African populations.
- Christopher Columbus to Raphael Sanchez, March 14, 1493
- Christopher Columbus to Doña Juana de Torres, 1500
- Juan López de Palacios Rubios, Requerimiento, 1513
- Francisco de Vitoria, De Indis, 1532
- Bartolomé de Las Casas, A Short Description of the Destruction of the Indies, 1542
- Indenture between the four Adventurers and Robert Coopy of North Nibley, 1619
- Richard Frethorne to His Parents, March 20 and April 2 – 3, 1623
- George Alsop, The Necessariness of Servitude Proved, 1666
- Colonial Virginia Laws Related to Slavery
- Robert Beverley, Of the Servants and Slaves in Virginia, 1722
These documents, which are taken from Chapters 2-3 of Documents and Debates in American History, Vol. 1, 1493-1865 will allow you and your students to discuss the similarities and differences in the ways laborers of various racial and religious backgrounds were treated by Spanish and English colonizers, and to consider the role of religion in both justifying and condemning injustice and oppression towards unfree persons in both regions of early America.
As a reminder, when you become a member of Teaching American History, you can save these and any other document in our library to your personal collections, creating customized reading packets for use in your own classroom. Check out our quick start guide below for tips on how to get started with this feature.