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Slavery is an ancient and complex social system that permits the control of and often the actual ownership of an individual and his or her labor by another. This institution often blends into other forms of forced labor, which include a vast array of relationships that extend from formal systems, such as serfdom, indentured servitude, and conscription, to informal systems of family labor and to even illegal control of labor and other services. This complex and constantly changing system of servitude has played a central role in many societies since before the agricultural revolution and still exists in informal and illegal manifestations today. This entry focuses on the history of slavery within North America and the United States and its relationship to the development of ...

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