Black History Timeline: 1619-1696

1619   The first African slaves arrive in Virginia. The first Africans arrived in Virginia because of the transatlantic slave trade. The Africans who came to Virginia in 1619 had been taken from Angola in West Central Africa.

1640  John Punch, a black indentured servant, ran away with two white indentured servants, James, Gregory, and Victor. After the three were captured, Punch was sentenced to serve Virginia planter Hugh Gwyn for life. This made John Punch the first legally documented slave in Virginia (and the US).

1641 Massachusetts becomes the first colony to legalize slavery. This is done through the passage of the Body of Liberties. Under section 91 it states:

A ship “brought not anything but 20. and odd Negroes” to Virginia in late August 1619 after capturing them from a slave ship bound for Spanish colonies.
John Punch (slave): World Heritage Encyclopedia
Recording of the John Punch court decision with transcript
Massachusetts Body of Liberties
Seventeenth-century Virginia legal codes

1565 The Spanish colony of St. Augustine in Florida became the first permanent European settlement in what would become the US centuries later; it included an unknown number of African slaves.

1746   Lucy Terry Prince, an enslaved person becomes the earliest known black American poet when she writes about the last American Indian attack on her village of Deerfield, Massachusetts.

Her poem, Bar’s Fight was not published until 1855.

Lucy Terry Prince: “Singer of History ” David R. Proper
Court Ruling on Anthony Johnson and His Servant
John Casor: World Heritage Encyclopedia

1654 John Casor, became the first legal slave in America. Anthony Johnson, previously an African indentured slave, claimed John Casor as his slave. The Northampton County rule against Casor and declared him a slave for life by Anthony Johnson. Since Africans were not English, they were not covered by the English Common Law.

1662 Massachusetts reverses a ruling dating back to 1652, which allowed blacks to train in arms. New York, Connecticut, and New Hampshire pass similar laws restricting the bearing of arms.


1662 Virginia law, using the principle of partus sequitur ventrem, said that children in the colony were born into their mother’s social status; therefore children born to enslaved mothers were classified as slaves, regardless of their father’s race or status. This was contrary to English common law for English subjects, which held that children took their father’s social status.

Learn morePartus sequitur ventrem: Law, Race, and Reproduction in Colonial Slavery Jennifer L. Morgan

1663 Maryland legalized slavery.

1664 New York and New Jersey legalized slavery

1664 Maryland is the first colony to take legal action against marriages between white women and black men.

1664 The State of Maryland mandates lifelong servitude for all black slaves. New York, New Jersey, the Carolinas, and Virginia all pass similar laws.

1666 Maryland passes a fugitive slave law.

1667 Virginia declares that Christian baptism will not alter a person’s status as a slave.

1668 New Jersey passes a fugitive slave law

1670 The State of Virginia prohibits free blacks and Indians from keeping Christian white servants.

1672 Royal African Company is founded in England, allowing slaves to be shipped from Africa to the colonies in North America and the Caribbean. England entered the slave trade.

It was led by the Duke of York, who was the brother of Charles II and later took the throne as James II.

The constitution and finance of the Royal African Company of England from its foundation till 1720, 1 / 24

1674 New York declares that blacks who convert to Christianity after their enslavement will not be freed.

1676  Both free and enslaved African Americans fought in Bacon’s Rebellion along with English colonists.

1680 The General Court of Massachusetts (which was the governing body of the Colony) passed a law that required all ships that were bringing any cargo of slaves to the colony to obtain permission from the governor. John Usher, John Saffin, and four others develop and implement a plan to circumvent the Royal African Company’s monopoly and import slaves into Massachusetts. They were successful in bringing slaves and selling them in 1681.

1682 All servants except Turks and Moors, and blacks, racially mixed people, or Indians whose parents and native country are not Christian are to be treated as slaves • No owner or master should let any black or slave that doesn’t belong to him remain on his plantation for more than 4 hours at a time

1682 New York enacts its first slave codes. They restrict the freedom of movement and the ability to trade all enslaved people in the colony.

1682 Virginia declares that all imported black servants are slaves for life.

1684 New York makes it illegal for slaves to sell goods.

1690 By this year, all English colonies in America have enslaved Africans

1691 Virginia enacts a new law that punishes forbidding marriages between whites and blacks or whites and Native Americans. Children of such interracial liaisons become the property of the church for 30 years.

Statutory Prohibitions against Interracial Marriage

1691 South Carolina passes the first comprehensive slave codes

1691 County justices were authorized to send out armed men to apprehend “such [blacks], mulattoes or other slaves” who were runaways and if they were killed, their owner would be compensated.

If a white person were to marry a person who was black, racially mixed, or Indian, the couple had to leave Virginia within three months; fines for a free white woman producing a racially mixed child and servitude for the woman if the fine is not paid. If the owner of a black person sets him or her free, the newly freed person has to leave Virginia within 6 months. Virginia law bans interracial marriages. Virginia law prohibits whites from freeing blacks or mulattoes without paying to have them removed from the colony.

“An act for suppressing outlying slaves” (1691)

1695 Rev. Samuel Thomas, a white cleric in Charleston, South Carolina, establishes the first school for African Americans in the British North American colonies.

1696 The Royal African Trade Company loses its monopoly, and New England colonists enter the slave trade.

More Black History Timeline 1800-1896

Work Cited
African American History Timeline • BlackPast.
Slavery and the Making of America. Timeline | PBS. TIMELINE OF
SLAVERY IN AMERICA 1501-1865 1501 1522 1562 1612.
The First Africans | Historic Jamestowne.
Timeline of African-American history – Wikipedia.

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