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History of Slavery in America. 1619 —A Dutch slave trader dumped his cargo of slaves in the Jamestown settlement In exchange for food.

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1619—A Dutch slave trader dumped his cargo of slaves in the Jamestown settlement

In exchange for food.

Following the arrival of twenty Africans aboard a Dutch man-of-war in Virginia in 1619, the face of American slavery began to change from the "tawny" Indian to the "blackamoor" African in the years between 1650 and 1750.

Native Americans susceptibility to European diseases, the proximity of avenues of escape for Native Americans, and the lucrative nature of the African slave trade led to a transition to an African based institution of slavery.

This did not eliminate the persecution and decimation of Native American peoples.


1620The Pilgrims settled at Plymouth Massachusetts. Most black servants were given their freedom after turning 25 years .

1624New Amsterdam- The Dutch, who had entered the slave trade in 1621 with the formation of the Dutch West Indies Co., import blacks to serve on Hudson Valley farms. According to Dutch law, the children of freed slaves are bound to slavery.

1638The price tag for an African male was around $27.

1640Whipping and branding, borrowed from Roman practice were commonly used for reprimanding slaves. One Virginian slave, named Emanuel, was convicted of trying to escape in July, 1640, and was condemned to thirty stripes, with the letter "R" for "runaway" branded on his cheek and "work in a shackle for one year or more.

1641Massachusetts colony legalizes slavery.


1660Slavery spread quickly in the American colonies. At first the legal status of Africans in America was poorly defined, and some, like European indentured servants, managed to become free after several years of service. From the 1660s, however, the colonies began enacting laws that defined and regulated slave relations. Central to these laws was the provision that black slaves, and the children of slave women, would serve for life. This premise, combined with the natural population growth among the slaves, meant that slavery could survive and grow.

1663Maryland Settlers pass law stipulating that all imported blacks are to be given the status of slaves. Free white women who marry black slaves are to be slaves during the lives of their spouses, Ironically, children born of white servant women and blacks are regarded as free by a 1681 law.

1664Slavery introduced into law in Maryland, the law also prohibited marriage between white women and black men. This particular act remained in effect for over 300 years, and between 1935 and 1967 the law was extended to forbid the marriage of Malaysians with blacks or whites. The law was finally repealed in 1967.



Senegambia (Senegal-Gambia)* 5.8%

Sierra Leone 3.4%

Windward Coast (Ivory Coast)* 12.1%

Gold Coast (Ghana)* 14.4%

Bight of Benin (Nigeria)* 14.5

Bight of Biafra (Nigeria)* 25.1%

Central and Southeast Africa (Cameroon- N.Angola)* 24.7% *


(Graphic from Kids Zone, The countries of Africa and


The Atlantic slave-trade was different from all these earlier slavery in several respects.

It was the first form of slavery that was solely motivated by commercial incentives. In earlier times slaves were used as domestic workers and soldiers, since there were no plantations or industrial factories where millions of slave-labor was needed. The African slave-trade was a capitalist invention.

It was the large-scale capitalist mode of production which required cheap labors that induced the slave trade. It was the Industrial Revolution in Europe that made it necessary to traffic in human lives on a colossal scale.

Slaves in earlier times enjoyed social and individual rights - like marriage, freedom to raise a family, speak their language and worship their gods, rights which were denied the African slaves exported to the Americas.

Africans captured and taken into the new world were stripped of all their personality and humanity - they could not even bear their own names.

It was capitalism that introduced chattel-slavery.


Height of Atlantic Slave Trade:Between the years 1650 and 1900, historians estimate that at least 28 million Africans were forcibly removed from central and western Africa as slaves (but the numbers involved are controversial). A human catastrophe for Africa, the world African Slave Trade was truly a "Holocaust.“

Commercial goods from Europe were shipped to Africa for sale and trade for enslaved Africans.

Africans were in turn brought to the regions depicted in blue, in what became known as the "Middle Passage.”

African slaves were traded for raw materials, which were returned to Europe to complete the “Triangle Trade.”


1688Germantown, Pennsylvania- Mennonite Quakers sign an anti-slavery resolution, the first formal protest against slavery in the Western Hemisphere.

In 1696 Quakers importing slaves are threatened with expulsion from the Society.

1712New York Slave revolt. Nine whites killed, Twenty-one slaves executed. Twenty-three slaves rose up in rebellion because of mistreatment. They killed nine whites before they were defeated. The captured slaves were all either hanged or burnt at the stake.

1705Virginia- The Assembly declares that "no Negro, mulatto, or Indian shall presume to take upon him, act in or exercise any office, ecclesiastic, civil or military." Blacks are forbidden to serve as witness in court cases and are condemned to life-long servitude, unless they either been Christians in their native land or free men in a Christian country.

1715Black slaves comprise 24 percent of the Virginia colony’s population, up from less than 5 percent in 1671.


1727Philadelphia- The Junto, a benevolent association founded by Benjamin Franklin, opposes slavery

1740The Slavery system in colonial America was fully developed. A Virginia law in that year declared slaves to be "chattel personal in the hands of their owners and possessors for all intents, construction, and purpose whatsoever


Mount Vernon - There are 18 slaves at Mount Vernon at the time George Washington acquires the estate there. Under Washington, the number grows to 200, Washington's record shows a concern for their physical welfare, but vacillation about their right to freedom and his willingness to dispense with their services

The Pennsylvania Gradual Abolition Act of 1780 was the first emancipation statute in the United States.


1773Massachusetts slaves petitioned legislature for freedom, Jan. 6. There is a record of 8 petitions during Revolutionary War period

1775Philadelphia - The Continental Congress bars blacks from the American Revolutionary army

1776Washington's writings indicated that he applauded the talents among the enslaved. In early 1776, he received a poem from a young woman and, "with a view of doing justice to her great poetical Genius, I had a great Mind to publish the Poem.”

The poet was the now famous Phillis Wheatley, who was then an enslaved Bostonian.

In private correspondence during the 1780s and 1790s, Washington

repeatedly expressed a devout hope that the state governments

would legislate "a gradual Abolition of Slavery; It would prevent

much future Mischief."


1780Pennsylvania became the first state to abolish slavery. The Pennsylvania Gradual Abolition Act of 1780 was the first emancipation statute in the United States.

. "In 1830, there were 6,152 free Negroes in the District of Columbia compared with 6,152 slaves; in 1840, 8,361 compared with 4,694 slaves; and in 1860, 11,131 compared with only 3,185. Thus is 30 years, the free colored population was nearly doubled, while the slave population was halved.


Nat Turner, an African-American slave and revolutionary, commanded about 60 followers in a revolt that killed 55 whites.


1836Congress passes a resolution, stating that it has no authority over state slavery laws

1838Frederick Douglas escaped from slavery in Baltimore, Sept. 3.



Supreme Court declares in Scott v. Sandford that blacks are not U.S. citizens, and slaveholders have the right to take slaves in free areas of the county The Dred Scott enrages abolitionists and encourages slave owners. The fugitive slave Dred Scott, now 62, brought suit in 1848 to claim freedom on the ground that he resided in free territory, but the court rules that his residence in Minnesota Territory does not make him free, that a black may not bring suit in a federal court, and that Congress never had the authority to ban slavery in the territories, a ruling that in effect calls the Missouri Compromise of 1820 unconstitutional.


Marine assault on building occupied by abolitionist John Brown and followers, Harper's Ferry, Virginia, 18 Oct. 1859.

One Marine killed and one Wounded.

Census dataTotal number of slaves in the Lower South : 2,312,352 (47% of total population). Total number of slaves in the Upper South: 1,208758 (29% of total population). Total number of slaves in the Border States: 432,586 (13% of total population).

Almost one-third of all Southern families owned slaves. In Mississippi and South Carolina

it approached one half. The total number of slave owners was 385,000 (including, in Louisiana,

some free Negroes). As for the number of slaves owned by each master, 88% held fewer than twenty,

and nearly 50% held fewer than five.

For comparison's sake, let it be noted that in the 1950's, only 2% of American families owned corporation stocks equal in

value to the 1860 value of a single slave. Thus, slave ownership was much more widespread in the South than corporate

investment was in 1950's America.


1862/04/16Slavery was abolished in the District of Columbia by Congress on this day. One million dollars was appropriated to compensate owners of freed slaves, and $100,000 was set aside to pay district slaves who wished to emigrate to Haiti, Liberia or any other country outside the United States.

President Abraham Lincoln signed a bill ending slavery in the District of Columbia. Passage of this act came 9 months before President Lincoln issued his Emancipation Proclamation. The act brought to conclusion decades of agitation aimed at ending what antislavery advocates called "the national shame" of slavery in the nation's capital.

The law provided for immediate emancipation, compensation of up to $300 for each slave to loyal Unionist masters, voluntary colonization of former slaves to colonies outside the United States, and payments of up to $100 to each person choosing emigration. Over the next 9 months, the federal government paid almost $1 million for the freedom of approximately 3,100 former slaves.

The District of Columbia Emancipation Act is the only example of compensated emancipation in the United States.