Various forms of American literature comment upon the legal status of workers and residents, but none are as provocative as the literature discussing slavery and enforced servitude. Whether the literature is an autobiographical account or a contemporary novel, narrative impressions of slave/servant laws are powerfully translated. Equally compelling are the historical underpinnings leading to the development of codes and laws which dictate the rights, or lack thereof, of servants, slaves, and Native American people in the colonial and early American periods.
In order to discuss the various intersections of forces that codify the status of individuals within the early American period, this work investigates three distinct yet interrelated areas of American law: the laws of slavery, the laws of servitude, and the laws governing Native American people who often straddle the divide. Although literature does not neatly divide itself according to these categories, a combination of autobiographical and fictional accounts has been selected for this purpose. These accounts reflect or comment upon particular laws that are useful for understanding the stratified system that developed as the nation evolved from a colonial possession into a fledgling, then established, nation.
In total, Servants, Slaves, and Savages is offered as an overview of the disparate conditions experienced by European indentured servants, African slaves, and Native Americans while emphasizing commonalities shared among these groups during the colonial and early American periods.