Slavery Timeline: History of
Slavery in America Timeline
1619 The first African slaves
arrive in Virginia. (Twenty Africans arrive at Jamestown,
Virginia aboard a Dutch ship). (See Slave Trade, Slavery, and Early Antislavery.)
1645 First African slave
ship, the 'Rainbowe', sets sail.
1663 First major African
revolt against slavery in Gloucester, Virginia.
1688 Quakers in Philadelphia make first protest against slavery.
1712 African revolt against
slavery in New York.
1712 Pennsylvania passes law preventing importation of slaves.
1739 Major African revolt
in Stono, South Carolina.
1741 African revolt in New York City.
1775 African soldiers fight
in battles of Bunker Hill, Concord and Lexington.
1777 Vermont becomes first state to abolish slavery.
1787 Northwest Ordinance
prohibits slavery in the Northwest Territories.
1787 U.S. Constitution is drafted.
1788 U.S. Constitution is officially
ratified by the signing of New Hampshire on June 21, 1788, thus extending slavery. (See Constitution of the United States of America.)
1789 U.S. Constitution officially
replaced the Articles of Confederation on March 4, 1789, when the first Federal Congress assembled in New York.
1793 Eli Whitney's invention of
the cotton gin greatly increases the demand for slave labor.
1793 A federal fugitive slave
law is enacted, providing for the return slaves who had escaped and crossed state lines.
1800 Africans in Philadelphia petition Congress to end slavery.
1804 Ohio 'Black Laws' prevent movement of Africans.
1808 U.S. prohibits importation
of Africans for slavery.
1811 Africans revolt in
1820 The Missouri Compromise bans slavery north of the southern boundary of Missouri.
1822 Denmark Vesey, an enslaved
African American carpenter who had purchased his freedom, plans a slave revolt with the intent to lay siege on Charleston, South Carolina. The plot
is discovered, and Vesey and 34 co-conspirators are hanged.
1831 Nat Turner, an enslaved African
American preacher, leads the most significant slave uprising in American history. He and his band of followers launch a short,
bloody, rebellion in Southampton County, Virginia.
The militia quells the rebellion, and Turner is eventually hanged. As a consequence, Virginia
institutes much stricter slave laws.
1831 William Lloyd Garrison
begins publishing the Liberator, a weekly paper that advocates the complete abolition of slavery. He becomes one of the most
famous figures in the abolitionist movement.
1839 Cinque leads African
revolt aboard the ship 'Amistad'.
1841 Africans revolt aboard
the ship 'Creole' and flee to Bahamas.
1846 The Wilmot Proviso,
introduced by Democratic representative David Wilmot of Pennsylvania,
attempts to ban slavery in territory gained in the Mexican War. The proviso is blocked by Southerners, but continues to enflame
the debate over slavery.
1849 Harriet Tubman (see Abolitionists) escapes from slavery and becomes one of the most effective and celebrated leaders
of the Underground Railroad.
1850 The continuing debate whether
territory gained in the Mexican War should be open to slavery is decided in the Compromise of 1850 (includes the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850): California is admitted as a free
state, Utah and New Mexico territories are left
to be decided by popular sovereignty, and the slave trade in Washington,
D.C., is prohibited. It also establishes a much stricter fugitive slave law than
the original, passed in 1793.
1852 Harriet Beecher Stowe's novel,
Uncle Tom's Cabin is published. It becomes one of the most influential works to stir anti-slavery sentiments.
1854 Congress passes the Kansas-Nebraska Act, establishing the territories of Kansas and Nebraska.
The legislation repeals the Missouri Compromise of 1820 and renews tensions between anti- and proslavery factions.
1854 Violence erupts in Kansas;
commonly referred to as Bleeding Kansas or the Border War.
1856 Senator Charles Sumner
delivers a stinging speech in the U.S. Senate, "The Crime against Kansas," in which he attacks slavery, the South, and singles
out his Senate colleague, Andrew Butler of South Carolina, for criticism. In retaliation, Butler’s nephew, Congressman
Preston Brooks of South Carolina, attacks Sumner with a cane while the Massachusetts senator is seated at his desk on the
floor of the Senate. The injuries he sustains cause Sumner to be absent from the Senate for four years.
1857 The Dred Scott Case holds that Congress does not have the right to ban slavery in states and, furthermore, that slaves are not U.S. citizens.
1859 John Brown and 21 followers capture the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Va.
(now West Virginia.), in an attempt to launch a slave revolt.
1860 Kentucky Senator John Crittenden
proposes six amendments to the U.S. Constitution. The amendments, contained in the Crittenden Compromise, specifically addressed slavery.
1863 President Abraham Lincoln
signs the Emancipation Proclamation. (Lincoln, however, initially signed the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation in 1862.)
1865 Robert E. Lee surrenders
1865 Thirteenth Amendment abolishes slavery.
1865 Reconstruction Era begins.
It introduces a series of laws, codes, amendments, and acts (Reconstruction Era and Acts 1865-1877). Although African Americans received U.S. citizenship with the ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment in 1868, America's Indigenous peoples, aka Native Americans, were not U.S. citizens until the Indian Citizenship Act of 1924.
Recommended Reading: Inhuman Bondage: The Rise and Fall of Slavery in the New World. Description: Winner of a Pulitzer Prize and a National Book Award, David Brion Davis has long been recognized as the leading
authority on slavery in the Western World. Now, in Inhuman Bondage, Davis sums up a lifetime
of insight in this definitive account of New World slavery. The heart of the book looks at
slavery in the American South, describing black slaveholding planters, rise of the Cotton
Kingdom, daily life of ordinary slaves, highly destructive slave trade,
sexual exploitation of slaves, emergence of an African-American culture, abolition, abolitionists, antislavery movements,
and much more. Continued below.
centered on the United States, the book offers a global perspective spanning four continents. It
is the only study of American slavery that reaches back to ancient foundations and also traces the long evolution of anti-black
racism in European thought. Equally important, it combines the subjects of slavery and abolitionism as very few books do,
and it connects the actual life of slaves with the crucial place of slavery in American politics, stressing that slavery was
integral to America's success as a nation--not
a marginal enterprise. This is the definitive history by a writer deeply immersed in the subject. Inhuman Bondage offers a
compelling portrait of the dark side of the American dream.
Recommended Reading: The SLAVE TRADE: THE STORY OF THE ATLANTIC
SLAVE TRADE: 1440 - 1870. From School Library Journal: Thomas concentrates on the economics, social acceptance, and politics of
the slave trade. The scope of the book is amazingly broad as the author covers virtually every aspect of the subject from
the early days of the 16th century when great commercial houses were set up throughout Europe
to the 1713 Peace Treaty of Utrecht, which gave the British the right to import slaves into the Spanish Indies. The account
includes the anti-slavery patrols of the 19th century and the final decline and abolition in the early 20th century. Continued
Through the skillful weaving of numerous official reports, financial documents, and firsthand accounts, Thomas explains
how slavery was socially acceptable and shows that people and governments everywhere were involved in it. This book is a comprehensive
study from African kings and Arab slave traders to the Europeans and Americans who bought and transported them to the New World. Despite the
volatility of the subject, the author remains emotionally detached in his writing, yet produces a highly readable, informative
book. A superb addition and highly recommended.
Recommended Viewing: Slavery and the Making of America
(240 minutes), Starring: Morgan Freeman; Director: William R. Grant. Description: Acclaimed actor Morgan Freeman narrates this compelling documentary, which features a score by Michael
Whalen. Underscoring how slavery impacted the growth of this country's Southern and Northern states; the series examines issues
still relevant today. The variety of cultures from which the slaves originated provided the budding states with a multitude
of skills that had a dramatic effect on the diverse communities. From joining the British in the Revolutionary War, to fleeing
to Canada, to joining rebel communities in the U.S. the slaves sought freedom in many ways, ultimately having a far-reaching effect
on the new hemisphere they were forced to inhabit. AWARDED 5 STARS by americancivilwarhistory.org
Recommended Reading: Uncle Tom's Cabin (Wordsworth Classics), by Harriet Beecher Stowe (Author). Description:
Edited and with an Introduction and Notes by Dr Keith Carabine, University of Kent at Canterbury. Uncle Tom's
Cabin is the most popular, influential and controversial book written by an American. Stowe's rich, panoramic novel passionately
dramatizes why the whole of America is
implicated in and responsible for the sin of slavery, and resoundingly concludes that only 'repentance, justice and mercy'
will prevent the onset of 'the wrath of Almighty God!'.
Roots (Four-Disc 30th Anniversary Edition) (DVD) (573 minutes). Description:
Based on Alex Haley's best-selling novel about his African ancestors, Roots followed several generations in the lives of a
slave family. The saga began with Kunta Kinte (LeVar Burton), a West African youth captured by slave raiders and shipped to
America in the 1700s. The family's saga is depicted up until the Civil War where
Kunte Kinte's grandson gained emancipation. Roots made its greatest impression on the ratings and widespread popularity it
garnered. On average, 130 million - almost half the country at the time - saw all or part of the series. Interesting fact:
Alex Haley was also the founding father of the U.S. Coast Guard’s Public Affairs Office.
Reading: A Short History of Reconstruction.
Review: In an attempt to document the important issues
of reconstruction, Eric Foner compiled his book Reconstruction: America's
Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877. Foner addresses all the major issues leading up reconstruction, and then finishing his book
shortly after the end of reconstruction and the election of Rutherford B. Hayes in 1876.
In the preface of his book, Foner discusses the historiography of Reconstruction. He notes that during the early part
of the twentieth century many historians considered Reconstruction as one of the darkest periods of American history. Foner
notes that this viewpoint changed during the 1960s as revisionists shed new "light" on reconstruction. The revisionists saw
Andrew Johnson as a stubborn racist, and viewed the Radical Republicans as "idealistic reformers genuinely committed to black
rights." The author notes that recent studies of reconstruction argue that the Radicals were actually quite conservative,
and most Radicals held on to their racist views and put up very little fight as the whites once again began to govern the
south. Continued below...
describes the African-American experience during the Civil War and Reconstruction. He argues that African-Americans were not
simply figures that took little or no action in the events of the day, and notes the enlistment of thousands of African-Americans
in the Union army during the war. Foner also notes that many of the African-Americans that eventually became civil leaders
had at one time served in the Union Army. He states, "For men of talent and ambition, the army flung open a door to advancement
and respectability." He notes that as reconstruction progressed, African-Americans were the targets of violence and racism. Foner
believes that the transition of slaves into free laborers and equal citizens was the most drastic example of change following
the end of the war. He notes how African-Americans were eventually forced to return to the plantations, not as slaves but
as share croppers, and were thus introduced to a new form of slavery. He argues that this arrangement introduced a new class
structure to the South, and states "It was an economic transformation that would culminate, long after the end of Reconstruction,
in the consolidation of a rural proletariat composed of a new owning class of planters and merchants, itself subordinate to
Northern financiers and industrialists.” The author illustrates how both blacks and whites struggled to use the state
and local governments to develop their own interests and establish their respective place in the evolving social orders. Another
theme that he addresses in this excellent study is racism itself and the interconnection of race and class in the South.
he addresses is the expanded presence of federal authority, as well as a growing idea and commitment to the idea that equal
rights belonged to all citizens, regardless of race. Foner shows how both Northern and Southern blacks embraced the power
to vote, and, as Reconstruction ended, many blacks saw the loss of suffrage and the loss of freedom. Foner illustrates that
because the presence of blacks at the poll threatened the established traditions, corruption increased, which helped to undermine
the support for Reconstruction. The former leaders of the Confederacy were barred from political office, who were the regions
"natural leaders," a reversal of sympathies took place which portrayed the Southern whites as victims, and blacks unfit to
affected the North as well, but argues that it was obviously less revolutionary than it was in the South. Foner notes that
a new group of elites surfaced after the war, industrialists and railroad entrepreneurs emerged as powerful and influential
leaders alongside the former commercial elite. The Republicans in the North did attempt to improve the lives of Northern blacks.
However, there were far fewer blacks in the North, so it was more difficult for blacks to have their agendas and needs addressed
in the local legislatures. He states, "Most Northern blacks remained trapped in inferior housing and menial and unskilled
jobs." Foner adds that the few jobs blacks were able to acquire were constantly being challenged by the huge influx of European
is definitely worthy of his original volume. Reconstruction is a subject that can still be interpreted in several ways, including
the revisionist school of thought. Foner, however, seems to be as objective as possible on this subject, and has fairly addressed
all major issues that apply.