14. Enslaved children were hired out in forced apprenticeships
Women were often hired out to families as domestic workers, and in some cases they took their children with them to the new home. The children, if not employable in the new home or business, often were apprenticed to other commercial entities. This both separated them from their families and increased their potential value to their owners. Apprenticeship led to artisan skills which would eventually increase the value of the enslaved individual to his or her owner. Enslaved apprentices learned iron working, leather working, tanning, carpentry, furniture making, weaving, spinning, and a plethora of other skills, while the cost of feeding and clothing the worker fell to the person to whom he was apprenticed. During the apprenticeship daily life was determined by the person to whom they were bound for the specified period of time.
Apprentices usually lived in the home or business to which they were bound. Usually they occupied quarters in the cellar, or in an attic garret. They spent the day learning the trade to which they were apprenticed, from the employed journeymen and from enslaved hired workers. Leaving the premises of the business required a written pass, and often days would go by during which the apprentice never saw the outside of his place of work, other than to use the privy. At the end of the period of apprenticeship the enslaved worker could be hired out at greater value than an untrained worker, or returned to his owner to ply his new trade at the latter’s behest. The practice of hiring out slaves and apprentices greatly expanded the influence of slavery on Virginia’s economy in the antebellum period. It also led to greater acceptance of slavery in the urban areas, such as Richmond and Fredericksburg, in the first half of the 19th century.