Lesson 2: Southern Colonies


Activity 1: Early Interactions Between Europeans and American Indians

Sometimes, the same set of events can seem very different when you look at the situation from two different perspectives. For example, a worried parent may believe that some sort of disciplinary action is justified when a teen comes home very late without calling to say when he would be home. On the other hand, the teen who is disciplined may believe that the punishment was unfair because he tried to call, but his cell phone battery had run down. Looking at both sides of the story, we can see the point of view of each participant and try to understand the incident more fully.

Historians very often consult historical sources from multiple perspectives. In researching a labor strike, for example, a scholar might read accounts from company executives, union leaders, and workers in an effort to understand the situation from all sides and arrive at a truthful way of explaining the historical event that isn't biased toward one point of view or another.

Unfortunately, when historians study the earliest history of interactions between Europeans and the native people of the Americas, they don't usually have detailed accounts from American Indians. They only have accounts from Europeans, who may have brought their own biases to their telling of the story. Since we don't have written records to give us insight into other sides of that same story, we must be aware that other sides do exist and try to remember that the sources we have available are incomplete and tell only a partial version of the events that took place so long ago.

In this activity, you'll read an account of an interaction between native people and early European explorers and think about how the incident might have looked differently through American Indian eyes. Follow the directions on the "Early Interactions Between Europeans and American Indians" pages. Note that at the time that this text was written (1584), English spelling was not standardized, and many words were written differently from the way we write them today. It may help, when trying to read these passages, to read them aloud instead of trying to read them silently. The text will often make more sense if you hear it.
Once you have read the passage, think about how Granganimo's wife, the other women in the village, and the men who came in to see these visitors might have felt about the same events. Would they have seen things the same way that Barlowe did, or would they have had a very different perspective? Write a short (2-3 paragraph) mock diary entry or letter to a distant relative from the point of view of one of these American Indian participants in this meeting, describing how the very same scene might have looked from a native point of view. You might want to consider the following questions as you write (although you don't need to answer all of them):
  • What do you think the residents of the village might have thought about these newcomers? Might they have had any concerns about their intentions?
  • Why do you think the wife of Granganimo washed the clothing of the visitors?
  • What do you think the American Indian hosts might have been thinking as they prepared the feast for these men?
  • Why do you think Granganimo's wife might have sent the men who had bows and arrows out and had them destroy or put away their weapons?
  • As the men departed, what do you think the people of the village might have thought about their visit and wondered about for the future?
In this activity, your child will read an account of an interaction between English men and the native people of a village near Roanoke in 1584. She will then rethink that experience from the point of view of the American Indians present and write a short, informal diary entry or letter describing the same scene from a native point of view.

Activity 2: Agricultural Work in the Southern Economy

In the readings for today, you learned about the early efforts of English colonists to produce cash crops for export to England. Production of goods required labor, and colonists used indentured servants (often children) and later slaves to provide that labor. Remember that indentured servants were people who owed labor to another person for a set period of time before they were free to take other jobs, move away, or lead an independent life. Enslaved people, on the other hand, were legal property owned by another person, and they had to work for that person indefinitely, with no fixed term of service.

In this activity, you'll either develop a poster designed to recruit indentured servants to come to Virginia and work on a plantation or compare tobacco cultivation to the production of either silk or flax and decide which seems like a more advantageous venture for a colonial fortune-seeker. Read over both options and decide which you would prefer to complete.
In this activity, your child will either create a poster designed to encourage people to sign up to work as indentured servants in Virginia or compare the cultivation of tobacco to either silk or flax and decide which product would be the most advantageous one to produce in the southern colonies. The first option incorporates visual arts and may be more appealing to students who are either visual learners or enjoy creative art projects. The second option involves comparing and contrasting two options in a table and may appeal to students who prefer reading and writing to artwork. Both options require considerable critical thinking, so your child may choose the option that she finds most appealing.

Option 1: Come to Virginia!

You learned in today's reading that there was a great demand for labor in the southern colonies, and colonial founders were eager to encourage people to travel from England to America to help populate the colony in Virginia — so eager, in fact, that some people were brought to the colony against their will. Imagine that you are working for the Virginia Company and are trying to encourage young people to decide to come to Virginia as indentured servants. Consider the following:
  • Why would someone want to try their luck in Virginia? What might they hope to gain?
  • What would a potential colonist want to know about Virginia? What worries might they have?
  • What could a potential advertisement say that would alleviate those worries and persuade people that coming to Virginia was a great idea?
  • Given what you know about the lengths people were willing to go to get children on board ships bound for Virginia, do you think someone creating an advertisement would necessarily tell the whole truth, or might they be willing to stretch the truth to encourage more colonists?
Then use the "Should You Go to Virginia?" activity page to write a list of pros and cons for two different people considering moving to Virginia.
In this activity, your child consider the pros and cons of two different people thinking about moving to Virginia.

Option 2: Tobacco v. Silk or Flax

Imagine that you are a colonial gentleman hoping to make his fortune in the southern colonies by producing goods for sale in England. You are trying to decide between tobacco and either silk or flax. First, read this article from the National Park Service about the colonial cultivation of tobacco:
Web Link
Then read one of the following two articles about the production of silk or flax:
Web Link
Web Link
Then use the "Tobacco vs. Silk or Flax" page to complete this activity.
In this activity, your child will use the National Park Service's Jamestowne website to read about tobacco cultivation in the colonies and about the production of one other product, either flax or silk. She will then compare the pros and cons of tobacco and either flax or silk and decide which a gentleman might choose when deciding how to try to make his fortune in the southern colonies.
Answer Key:
TobaccoMade good use of cleared land and prepared the land for other crops.
There was a ready market in England.
Survived transportation to England well.
Labor could be unskilled.
Very labor intensive — required a lot of laborers.
Required a lot of land.
Weather, pests, and disease could spoil a crop.
Somewhat tricky to learn to cultivate successfully — an experienced planter was required.
Prices fluctuated.
Silk (if chosen)Highly valuable end product, making it potentially economically advantageous.
Easy to transport.
Always in demand.
Required very highly skilled labor.
Silkworms had a highly specialized diet and did not thrive on native mulberry in America.
Flax (if chosen)Produced excellent, useful fiber that would be easy to sell.
Seeds could also be sold for linseed oil.
Very labor intensive.
Required highly skilled labor.
Like tobacco, it depleted the soil, so it required a lot of land and/or crop rotation.
Answers to the remaining questions will vary.