Slavery Education Government Religion Social Life Trades
Hardships and Cruelty of Slavery in Colonial Williamsburg
Life as an African was completely, unimaginably, different than life as an American. If you were an African in colonial Williamsburg, your days would be long, hard, tiring, and possibly frightening. Americans typically had nice, large houses with designs in both the architecture and furnishings that included bright patterns, hardwood, and breathtaking small details. For an African, especially somebody who was enslaved, a house was a miniscule, run-down hut. These were called “slave quarters”. Inside you might find a burlap mattress stuffed with straw, some work tools, and a musical instrument or two. Slave quarters could be found right next to a plantation. Plantations could be found on the outskirts of Williamsburg. A privileged American citizen was able to find a job of their choice, which made work more interesting and enjoyable. Most Americans took jobs at stores, or performed services for a living. Africans, on the other hand, worked primarily for their master. The jobs that they did daily were decided strictly by their master. Some Africans worked in fields, town, or even worked around houses. They were often beaten, burned, or killed if they didn’t perform a task properly. Rarely, Africans learned and perfected a skill such as blacksmithing or shoemaking. One other difference between life as a privileged American and an African is that they were treated differently by people. Americans earned ultimate respect, kindness, and were always listened to. Africans weren’t respected nearly as much as Americans. They were usually dodging unkindness and people were also, in my opinion, unfair to Africans. Lastly, Africans and Americans had many different hobbies and ways of enjoyment. Africans played music and sang for consolation. They sang of anger, pain, fear, hopes, and wishes of being free. Americans would rather go the pub, take walks and chat, or play games. Americans always stayed with their families and were never away from them for long. Africans, sadly, were separated from their families and friends at any time. This was a heart braking, sad thing for Africans. As you can see, life for Africans and privileged Americans was very different in colonial Williamsburg.
From what you just read, you may be able to tell that opportunities for Africans in colonial Williamsburg were very limited. Now, Africans have many new, more, and different opportunities. In colonial Williamsburg, Africans were not free citizens. Now, unlike colonial times, Africans are free people with just as many rights as anybody else in America. Also, Africans used to be forced to live in disgusting, run-down little huts. Now, they have the opportunity to get any house that they desire. Africans have gained the opportunity to choose and work for a job of their choice. Just like anyone else, they work hard to get a job and are judged equally in job interviews. Africans in Colonial Williamsburg had to work for masters and were forced. They didn’t have the job opportunities that they have now in Colonial Williamsburg. Africans used to be sadly taken away from their families. Now, they have the opportunity to start and have a family. Africans no longer have the worry of being taken apart from their loved ones. I think that now, Africans have opportunities that can change their lives for the better and in Colonial Williamsburg, they didn’t have any opportunities to live the life that they wanted. Over the years, as Africans have gained respect and fairness from other people, their opportunities have gotten broader and better. Over all, I think that opportunities for Africans are better and larger in quantities than they were in colonial Williamsburg.
If you were a boy in Colonial Williamsburg, you would go to the College of William and Mary. And if you were a girl, well you might get lucky and go to a Dame School. Education was very different for boys and girls in Colonial Williamsburg. Families would make sure that their son went to school and got an education when he came of age. Girls, on the other hand, weren’t a first priority to get an education. At the College of William and Mary, boys ages 12-15 were taught to read, write, and do arithmetic. The oldest students were able to study and become priests at the Church of England or Anglican Church. Girls were taught those same things if they went to school, but had to learn sewing, knitting, and prayers as well. Mostly, girls didn’t go to school and learned how to take care of a family and household instead of academics. Boys actually went to a school building. Dame Schools were ran by women in their homes so girls didn’t go to a specific school building. Dame means “lady.” The College of William and Mary is very old and historical. One building, the Wren Building, held government offices before being used for school.
Enslaved African children mostly didn’t get a full education. They might learn some things such as writing and rarely reading some words, but enslaved African children weren’t able to learn everything necessary for a well-rounded education. Parents of African children sometimes had an education and were able to teach children to do things such as reading and writing. There was a school for African boys in Williamsburg. It was small and lower quality than the school for white children. African girls weren’t allowed to go to the school so they had a pretty much hopeless chance of getting an education. Masters barely allowed children to attend school at all. Then, something bad happened. In 1831, Southern states passed a law against any education for slaves. With this law, enslaved Africans got in huge trouble when caught teaching a child reading or writing. Unlike recent times, getting an education was almost impossible for enslaved Africans in Colonial Williamsburg.
Today, education is available to all children. In Colonial Williamsburg, boys and girls were separated. There are still some all boys schools and all girls schools, but boys and girls can also go to school together. Also, Native Americans and Africans were separated from privileged Americans. Now, Africans, Native Americans, and Americans can all go to school together. Education is also different from Colonial Williamsburg because different material is taught. School used to prepare children for one certain career. Today, you are able to choose and indulge in a career of your choice. It is more important to attend school now than it was in Colonial Williamsburg. I think that education now is better than it was in Colonial Williamsburg. There is a larger variety of material to learn and improved learning technology involved in education today. Also, I am glad that now all different children can learn together and not be discriminated by race.
The ways of governing in Colonial Williamsburg.
In Colonial Williamsburg, the governmental system was made up of lawmakers and the royal governor. This was called the General Assembly. It consisted of the House of Burgesses, royal governor, and his council. The General Assembly would meet in the capitol building to write and vote on bills. The royal governor would then get the bill. He could either approve it and sign the bill or refuse to sign the bill. If the governor approved and signed the bill, it would become a law. The House of Burgesses was made up of two men from each county and one man from each town. The people of Virginia elected burgesses. The voters had to be white men who owned property and belonged to the Anglican Church. This went for members of the General Assembly also. The governor chose his council members and the British king chose the royal governor. Now, the governmental system is more complicated than the one in Colonial Williamsburg. It includes many more members. The members don’t have to be a certain race or religion to be a member of recent day government. Also, the government in America doesn’t run under a king anymore. I think that the governmental system is better off now because it includes people from all races and includes more decision makers in general. The more people to decide on matters, the more opinions. Also, with a larger governmental system comes many great minds being useful and improving America. The government’s purpose was to make good decisions and choices for Virginia as well as make laws!
The beliefs of people in Colonial Williamsburg.
Church in Colonial Williamsburg served as a place to practice religion. Laws for attending church were very strict in Colonial Williamsburg. People sat in an order based on their influence in the community. Important men sat in front with their families. Less important people sat further back. Students at the College of William and Mary sat in balconies far away from the front rows. When leaving church, wealthy and important men left first. Then, less important men and woman left the church. During services, Africans usually peeked through windows or stood in the back. Africans left last. Now, people don’t have to sit in an order based on their place in society at church. Church is a more welcoming environment where practicing religion is just the same for everyone in recent times. In Colonial Williamsburg, you were judged even at church. Today, you aren’t judged or anything at church. Over the last 300+ years, church has become more optional than necessary. If you don’t want to go to church, you don’t have to. In colonial Williamsburg, white colonists and Virginians had to attend and fully support church with money. Church has also become a bit less of a special occasion and more a routine than it was in Colonial Williamsburg.
In Colonial Williamsburg, people loved relaxing after hard work. Men flocked to taverns for dinner, talk, games, and more. At taverns you could usually rent bedrooms also. Taverns were mostly the main attraction for social time in Colonial Williamsburg. Sometimes balls would be hosted at taverns. One tavern, The Raleigh Tavern, was particularly important because it was named after an English explorer who had tried to start the first colony. Leaders of Virginia would come to the Raleigh Tavern for food, drinks, fancy dances, and most importantly talking politics. Blacksmiths and shoemakers would normally go to certain taverns together. Lawyers and plantation owners would attend other taverns. Those are just a few examples of how people had to go to certain places due to their importance. Today we have many more options of things to do in our social lives than people in Colonial Williamsburg did. We can also freely go to any place that we want for social time today. In Colonial Williamsburg, the tavern that a man went to depended on his status in the colony. If I lived in Colonial Williamsburg, I would choose my social activities based off of my status in the colony. If I had a low status, I wouldn’t go to very fancy, high class events. If I had a high status, I would go to fancy, upper-class activities. Now, I just choose my social activities based off of what I want to do for fun. I wouldn’t choose my activities by my status in the world today. Taverns were great fun after work in Colonial Williamsburg!
An important aspect of life in Colonial Williamsburg.
Craftsmen worked at trades in Colonial Williamsburg. Their shops were called trade shops. Craftsmen made things that are necessary in everyday living for colonists. Gunsmiths repaired metal items and made rifles, millers ground grain into flour, coopers made containers, and blacksmiths made objects out of iron and steel. There were other types of craftsmen, also. There were master craftsmen who owned their own trade shops. Master craftsmen sometimes hired journeymen, who were skilled workers. They also occasionally had apprentices who were working to be skilled craftsmen. Apprentices could work for four to seven years and until they reached 21 years old. Once in a while, enslaved Africans were taught in a craft. Rarely, slave masters gave permission for slaves to earn money by working for master craftsmen. Making a living in Colonial Williamsburg was different than it is now because options for making a living were limited. Today, there are more options for work than there were in Colonial Williamsburg. I would probably make a living off of producing care products for animals. This would be useful for impatient farmers with hurt or sick animals. There would barely be any other people who made a living that way so competition would not be fierce.
Colonial Williamsburg was a great, interesting place. As you can tell, civilization has improved over the years and now our community is more united and welcoming to all different people!