Grade Levels: 8 - 12
Say to students, "If you are an American of European descent and your ancestors came to this continent during the 1600s or 1700s, there is a 50 percent chance they came as indentured servants. It is estimated that one out of every two European colonists came to America under this condition. Think about the two words "indentured" and ''servants.'' What do you associate with these two terms? Write whatever words come to your mind around the two terms."
Now, have students look up the definition of "indenture" in the dictionary and write it.
What was it like to be an European American indentured servant in colonial America? Assign students to read the Background Information Sheet.
Some historians argue that the life for European American indentured servants in America was very similar to that of African American slaves. Other historians disagree, arguing that there were significant differences. Based on the information given about indentured servants and prior knowledge of slavery, have students create a Venn diagram that visually shows the similarities and differences of the lives of indentured servants and slaves in early America.
Assign students to write a short essay, based on the information outlined in the Venn diagram, stating their opinion--whether they agree with (I) the historians who believe the lives of African American slaves and European American indentured servants were more similar than different, or (2) the historians who believe the lives of African American slaves and European American indentured servants were more different than similar.
Excerpt from: Multicultural Activities for the American History Classroom.
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