Indentured Servitude: The Groundwork for Racial Slavery

Indentured Servitude: The Groundwork for Racial Slavery

Huddleston vs. Canhow 11th December 1640

In the verdict of Huddleston vs. Canhow in 1640, the court found in favor of William Huddleston who was the indentured servant of Mr. Canhow. William Huddleston sued Mr. Canhow for having not provided appropriate apparel. The significance of this case is that it shows the profound difference in the manner in which many individuals today perceive this period in history. For instance, many people believe that widespread racial slavery began at the onset of the colonies but this form of slavery evolved out of indentured servitude. Although race had started to become a mark of slavery as early as 1640, the majority of laborers were indentured servants that were comprised of many different races and ethnicities (Finkelman, 1985).

Another important aspect of Huddleston vs. Canhow is that the verdict of the case shows that there was a legal recognition of indentured servitude in that the servant could appeal to a higher authority when he or she felt cheated. In this case the servant won the case and Mr. Canhow was required to give William Huddleston the payment he required. These rulings were important as they showed that servants did have rights and were recognized under the law. This would quickly change as the laws would become more racially motivated and restrictive. By the early 1700’s indentured servitude was all but replaced by African slaves. The distinguishing between indentured servants and slaves diminished and by the early 1700’s laws were being passed that made it impossible for servants or slaves to seek legal remedy (Finkelman, 1985).


Finkelman, P. (1985). Slavery in the courtroom. Washington DC: Library of Congress.

By Collectie Stichting Nationaal Museum van Wereldculturen, CC BY-SA 3.0


Triola Vincent. Mon, Feb 01, 2021. Indentured Servitude: The Groundwork for Racial Slavery Retrieved from

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