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Servants could be bought, sold, or leased and they could be physically beaten for disobedience or running away.

Unlike slaves, they were freed after their term of service expired or was bought out, their children did not inherit their status, and on their release from contract they received "a year's provision of corn, double apparel, tools necessary", and a small cash payment called "freedom dues".

By the 1640s and 1650s, several African families owned farms around Jamestown and some became wealthy by colonial standards and purchased indentured servants of their own.

In 1640, the Virginia General Court recorded the earliest documentation of lifetime slavery when they sentenced John Punch, a Negro, to lifetime servitude under his master Hugh Gwyn for running away.

King Charles II of Spain issued a royal proclamation freeing all slaves who fled to Spanish Florida and accepted conversion and baptism. Augustine, but escaped slaves also reached Pensacola. Augustine had mustered an all-black militia unit defending Spain as early as 1683.

Although some did not have the money to buy their freedom that government measures on slavery allowed a high number of free blacks.

The ill-fated colony was almost immediately disrupted by a fight over leadership, during which the slaves revolted and fled the colony to seek refuge among local Native Americans.

De Ayllón and many of the colonists died shortly afterwards of an epidemic and the colony was abandoned.

The Dutch West India Company introduced slavery in 1625 with the importation of eleven black slaves into New Amsterdam (present-day New York City).

All the colony's slaves, however, were freed upon its surrender to the British.

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