What is the difference between slavery and indentured servitude?


Quick Answer

Indentured servants can be freed after working for a certain period of time. Slaves are not given their freedom, causing them to remain slaves until their owner releases them. Neither slaves or indentured servants are paid during their service.

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Full Answer

Indentured servants willingly enter an agreement to work for a specific period of time, up to six years or longer if there is a breach of contract, in exchange for something such as land. The contract of an indentured servant can be sold to an interested third party, but the servant is not considered property of the contract holder. Once the indentured servant is released from his contract at the end of the term, he becomes a recognized part of the community and can own property or vote. A slave is considered to be the property of his owner. Slaves are not allowed to own property, earn money for their services or vote. A slave can be bought, sold, left as property in a will and has no rights in society. After the Civil War, laws were changed to allow only the contracts of indentured servants, and not the servants themselves, to be considered real property. Both slaves and indentured servants were often used to work in fields at farms and complete other hard manual labor.

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