Slavery banner
1600 - 1699

Slavery was the legacy of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade. Its origins in the Americas predates the settlement of colonial Virginia in the 1600s. Although the system existed throughout the American colonies, it developed primarily in the South and as an institution was never totally integrated into the American society. Yet, the psychological consequences that resulted from the existence of that institution became a part of social thought and behavior as it effected every aspect of American life.

Major Highlights of 1600- 1670
1607: The English colony of Jamestown is founded in Virginia
1620: The Mayflower arrived on Cape Cod, and the pilgrims found the Plymouth Colony.
1630: Boston is settle by John Winthrop and a group of English Puritans.
1636: Havard College is founded in Massachusetts.
  • 1600: Historical records indicate that over 900,000 slaves were brought to Latin America. In the next century, 2,750,000 are added to that total. Slave revolts in the 16th century are reported in Hispaniola, Puerto Rico, Panama, Cuba, and Mexico.

  • 1609: Runaway slaves in Mexico, led by Yanga, sign a truce with the Spaniards and obtain their freedom and a town of their own.

  • 1617: The town of San Lorenzo de los Negroes receives its charter in Mexico, becoming the first officially recognized free settlement for blacks in the Americas.

  • 1619: The first Africans arrived in Virginia on board a Dutch vessel. They were indentured servants, bound to service for a period of seven years, after which they would legally become free. White immigrants arrived in the colonies under the same conditions. In the early years there was no implication of racial inferiority for blacks bound to servitude. During the first 40 or 50 years the Black Virginians eventually realized their freedom, bought land, engaged in commerce, and enjoyed political rights. Some even owned other indentured servants of African ancestry.

  • 1624: The Dutch, who had entered the slave trade in 1621 with the formation of the Dutch West Indies Company, import Africans to serve on Hudson Valley farms.

  • 1629: African slaves are imported into Connecticut, Maryland and Massachusetts (1634, and New Amsterdam (1637)

  • 1630: In Massachusetts, a law protecting slaves from abusive owners is enacted.

  • 1639: New England enters the slave trade when Captain William Pierce sails to the West Indies and purchases a group of African slaves.

  • 1640: The increasing use of sugar as a cash crop leads to a rapid rise in the African slave population in the West Indies. However, growth in mainland English colonies remains slow. The African slave population in Barbados for example, grows from a few hundred in 1640 to 6000 in 1645. In contrast, there are only three hundred slaves in Virginia in 1649and only 2,000 by 1671.

  • 1643: Groundwork for the eighteenth and nineteenth century fugitive slave laws is laid for the United States when an intercolonial agreement of the New England Confederation declares that mere certification by a magistrate is sufficient evidence to convict a runaway slave.

  • 1644: For the first time, New England merchants send three ships to Africa to trade for gold dust.

  • 1645: Ships sailing out of Boston bring slaves from Africa to the West Indies, where the are exchanged for sugar, tobacco, and wine, which in turn are sold for manufactured goods on return to Massachusetts. This lucrative venture establishes what will become New England's triangular trade route.

  • 1649: The colony of Virginia has over 300 African slaves.
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Journey to America


map of 13 colonies
The Original 13 Colonies
Slavery was sanctioned in all of the Original 13 colonies.


slave ship
Dutch Slave Ship
Slave ships were large European cargo ships built for the purpose of transporting African slaves to the Americas. (click on image to see trade route)


British Slave Ship