Black and White
Bacon's Rebellion was a key moment in the creation of the idea of whiteness in the American colonies. Edmund Morgan and other historians argue that in response to the rebellion, the rich planters who dominated government and the economy went out of their way to convince poor white farmers that their skin color was more important than their economic status. Both rich and poor were white, and manners and customs intentionally reinforced the rewards due to white skin. This separated poor white farmers from both free and enslaved African Americans.
Possible essays on race and Bacon's Rebellion include: tracing the change in status for white Americans, tracing the change in status for African Americans, comparing African Americans with other despised underclasses such as the Irish, comparing the treatment of African Americans with Native Americans, and using the legal code to discuss the formal creation of race as a category in law and society.
Servants and Slaves
Before 1660 white indentured servants performed almost all forced labor in Virginia and Maryland. After 1680 African and African American slaves performed most, and after 1690 almost all, forced labor. While many factors contributed to this transition, normally linked to it are lower disease rates, high prices for indentured servants, lower prices for enslaved Africans, better diets, the timing of the Rebellion and a marked drop in recruitment of indentured servants.
Possible essays on servants and slaves include: discussion of the difference between fixed terms of labor for servants and infinite labor for slaves, the hereditary nature of American chattel slavery, comparison of mortality rates and the preference for slavery, and an examination of the freedom dues owed to servants at the completion of their term.