Gov. Ralph Northam’s staff points to PBS article to back up his statement on the ‘first indentured servants from Africa’
Gov. Ralph Northam’s staff is pointing to a PBS article as well as other news reports to defend his statement on Sunday that “[w]e are now at the 400-year anniversary — just 90 miles from here in 1619, the first indentured servants from Africa landed on our shore.”
King fired back with, “Also known as slavery”:
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam: "We are now at the 400-year anniversary — just 90 miles from here in 1619, the first indentured servants from Africa landed on our shores…"@GayleKing: "Also known as slavery" https://t.co/ba3PnylCag pic.twitter.com/o0Sc8UzNiy
— CBS This Morning (@CBSThisMorning) February 10, 2019
From Northam’s staff, via the Washington Post’s Fenit Nirappil:
A spokeswoman for Northam responded to questions about why he used the term indentured servants by pointing to news sources that described the first Africans brought to Virginia as indentured servants: https://t.co/zThF6oP8a5 https://t.co/JGT02GV5CJ
— Fenit Nirappil (@FenitN) February 10, 2019
Indentured Servants In The U.S.
Indentured servants first arrived in America in the decade following the settlement of Jamestown by the Virginia Company in 1607.
The idea of indentured servitude was born of a need for cheap labor. The earliest settlers soon realized that they had lots of land to care for, but no one to care for it. With passage to the Colonies expensive for all but the wealthy, the Virginia Company developed the system of indentured servitude to attract workers. Indentured servants became vital to the colonial economy.
The timing of the Virginia colony was ideal. The Thirty Year’s War had left Europe’s economy depressed, and many skilled and unskilled laborers were without work. A new life in the New World offered a glimmer of hope; this explains how one-half to two-thirds of the immigrants who came to the American colonies arrived as indentured servants.
Servants typically worked four to seven years in exchange for passage, room, board, lodging and freedom dues. While the life of an indentured servant was harsh and restrictive, it wasn’t slavery. There were laws that protected some of their rights. But their life was not an easy one, and the punishments meted out to people who wronged were harsher than those for non-servants. An indentured servant’s contract could be extended as punishment for breaking a law, such as running away, or in the case of female servants, becoming pregnant.
Northam had other defenders as well, including Kurt Eichenwald…
Folks, learn your damn history. Northam is correct. First black Africans brought to Virginia in 1619 were indentured servants. @GayleKing is wrong. There were no laws for slavery in VA til 1661. The evolution from IS to slavery is essential to understand depth of evil of slavery.
— Kurt Eichenwald (@kurteichenwald) February 10, 2019
I first learned in 8th grade about the importance that the first black Africans brought to Virginia were indentured servants.
Fortunately, multiple winner of the Coretta Scott King award has made sure kids learn it at age 7.
If only Twitter would read. https://t.co/cKsxMTzNv4
— Kurt Eichenwald (@kurteichenwald) February 10, 2019
. . . The New Yorker’s Jelani Cobb. . .
Northam is in enough trouble but this isn’t part of it. The early black arrivals in the British North American colonies, and likely those at Jamestown, were often given the status of indentured servants. The slave system took time to evolve in the 17th century. @GayleKing https://t.co/zfGNGkQl5x
— jelani cobb (@jelani9) February 10, 2019
. . . Matthew Rosenberg, NYT . . .
No, they’re not the same thing. But I believe the first Africans brought to the colonies were given the status of indentured servants. The system later became slavery. Northam’s problem isn’t this statement.
— Matthew Rosenberg (@AllMattNYT) February 10, 2019
But we will note that there is some disagreement with this defense:
To everyone aghast at Northam's reference to indentured servants: Read up on the history. It's complicated. Some background here from Heywood and Thornton: https://t.co/OMZD800mQV https://t.co/f1288Cyf2i
— Will Saletan (@saletan) February 11, 2019
If you’re interested, this is a long thread on where historians are on the subject (it’s too long to post here):
If you need context for #RalphNortham's comment that the "20. and Odd Negroes" brought to Virginia in 1619 were "indentured servants" (instead of enslaved) you won't find a more helpful thread than this one! #historymatters https://t.co/LZoqGsqOHm
— Jemar Tisby (@JemarTisby) February 10, 2019
Thread starts here:
Every time I think I'm done with Virginia history, I get dragged back in. But here's why Northam referring to the "20. and Odd Negroes" of 1619 is so problematic: An historiographical thread. 1/
— Doctor Historianess (@historianess) February 10, 2019
Not a comedy routine: 'Healer' Ralph Northam goes on CBS to make things better and guess what happens https://t.co/xBpZKqEy37
— Twitchy Team (@TwitchyTeam) February 11, 2019
'But I didn't work FOR Obama!' Sean Spicier takes on Northam, Green New Deal, and the Super Bowl and talk about TRIGGERED https://t.co/76utjByX3z
— Twitchy Team (@TwitchyTeam) February 9, 2019
House Dem says Ralph Northam’s past ‘bigotry’ MUST be dealt with swiftly by… impeaching Trump? https://t.co/DfRBg9Vi2P
— Twitchy Team (@TwitchyTeam) February 8, 2019