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Explaining the importance of agriculture and its influence on the institution of slavery.



  • Explain to students that the success of tobacco as a cash crop transformed life in the Virginia colony and encouraged slavery.

  • Define the term cash crop (a crop that is grown to sell for money rather than for use by the growers and have students illustrate the cash crop of the early Virginia colony.

  • Explain that the economy of the Virginia colony depended on agriculture as a primary source of wealth. English citizens wanted to purchase Virginia tobacco and so the Jamestown settlers had a product that became their cash crop.

  • Explain that tobacco became the most profitable agricultural product. Tobacco was sold in England as a cash crop.

  • Explain how the successful planting of tobacco depended on a reliable and inexpensive source of labor.

  • Large numbers of Africans were brought to the colony against their will to work as slaves on the plantations.

  • The Virginia colony became dependent on slave labor, and the dependence lasted a long time.

  • Find a book about early Jamestown and read selections that explain how tobacco became a cash crop. Define cash crop. Talk about how agriculture became the primary source of wealth. Explain that tobacco was the most profitable product, because it was not available in England, and so the settlers traded it for supplies they needed.

  • Explain or continue reading excerpts of a selected book to discuss that the settlers needed to find an inexpensive source of labor to expand the tobacco economy. Use a world map to show the students where this labor would come from and have them identify the continent of Africa. Explain that the Africans were brought against their will, first as indentured servants, to plant, raise, and harvest the tobacco. As the economy grew, more Africans were needed for labor. Many Africans were apprehended against their will and brought to America as slaves. The dependence on slave labor in Virginia would last for many, many years.

  • Compare the experiences of different slaves by reading the stories contained in the following Web site. Ask students to chart ways slaves fought against slavery or how they survived slavery. Discuss the consequences.

  • http://www.virginiaplaces.org/agriculture/tobaccostaple.html
    Have students create a chart about the effect of agriculture and Virginia tobacco and plantations on the Virginia colony.



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Updated on August 11, 2008.