Frequently Heard Claim: “Indentured servants were slaves too!”

Image of a protest sign with the caption “White Bajans: Be Actively Antiracist. Black Lives Matter” — photo by bazodeemag

“Indentured servants were slaves too! “

White indentured servants experienced hardships, and some may have even been forced into labour. However, there are many important distinctions:

  • Their children were not born into indentured servitude, as Black peoples’ children were born into enslavement.
  • Legally the European laws which governed the Caribbean did not consider any whites as enslaved peoples. This provided many protections, such as being able to use courts of law if they were wronged, something to which African descended people who were enslaved did not have access. Importantly, White people, no matter how badly they were actually treated during their indentureship were always recognized as fully human individuals, with legal rights. Enslaved Africans were not. This has had long lasting repercussions.
  • Most had contracts, after which they would have land or be compensated financially. Even if not all were fairly compensated and were trapped in cycles of poverty, it is not the same thing as being enslaved without even the option of a contract or compensation.
  • When slavery was “over”, the whites were more likely to be given opportunities in society such as “management positions”, were allowed to own land, join certain clubs which gave them access to other opportunities, etc. Their status as ‘white people’ gave them opportunities for upward mobility that was not as available to freed Black individuals.

Other Sections



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Becoming Anti-Racist

Becoming Anti-Racist

A resource list for ALL white or ‘pass-fuh-white’ Bajans, and other white people living in Barbados.