The resources below offer information on the history
of slavery in America. The first Africans were brought to America
in 1619 and soon slaves were considered an essential part of the labor
force. Native Americans had been used as slaves by the colonies
but proved "unsatisfactory" because of their susceptibility
to disease and their talent for escaping. Unlike Africans who
found themselves in America, the Native Americans had a keen knowledge
of the land and could hope to reconnect with their communities.
There continues to be some debate about the extent to which Africans
who arrived in the early part of the seventeenth century may have
shared some of the same (limited) rights as Europeans who had agreed
to serve as indentured servants in order to pay the price of their
passage to the new world. (See "The
forme of a binding servant," from 1635.) However, it is
well documented that slavery as we now understand it began to take
form by the middle of the seventeenth century.
Despite the popular preconception that American slavery was an
exculsively southern institution, it was actually first legalized
in two northern colonies. "In Massachusetts Bay the 1641 Body
of Liberties proclaimed the rights of Englishmen in this Colony
and made slavery legal for blacks, mulattos and native peoples,
the first state to define its place in the colonies, although certainly
not its worst practitioner." (See African-Americans
in Massachusetts) Connecticut had no laws against slavery in
the early years of the colony, and with the passage of the series
of laws known as the "Black Code" (between 1690 and 173),
slavery was established as a legal institution. Virginia went
through a similar process, passing a series of laws defiing the
powers of masters over slaves beginning in 1640, and legallizing
slavery in 1661. On October 1669, Virginia passed the following
WHEREAS the only law in force for the punishment of servants
resisting their master cannot be inflicted upon negroes,
if a slave by the extremity of the correction should chance
to die, the master shall not be adjudged guilty of felony
since it connot be presumed that prepensed malice (which
alone makes murther Felony) should induce any man to destroy
his own estate
By that point, the same body had already determined that any children
born to slave women were to be bound into slavery for the rest of
their lives, regardless of the status of the father. The story
of how the chains of slavery were forged and eventually broken is
a critical part of American history, because it was a significant
test of what the founders--and later Lincoln--called, the American
National Slavery Timeline
Slavery in Pennsylvania
in Connecticut 1640-1848 at the Yale-New
Haven Teacher's Institute
Boston, Massachusetts at Africana.Com
in New England
of Missouri's African American History
and Atlantic Creoles, Enslaved and Free on the Historic
Hudson Valley site.
Slavery in early New York as described by the General Services
Statement" on New York's African Burial Ground site.
Struggle from the Start, Hartford's Black History, 1638 to the present
Pertaining to Slaves and Servants, Virginia 1629-1672
Slave Laws, 1660s
slave codes: 1705 at PBS's Africans
in America Site
and the Law in Virginia at the Colonial
Williamsburg site.(Links to lesson plans or middle school teachers
Origin of Slavery and Racism in the Chesapeake, Prof. Patrick
Rael, Bowdoin College
Middle Passage History
Timeline and Commentary from the Middle
Passage Foundation, Inc. (Includes world slavery timeline.)
Commentaries and Resources on the Development of the Slave System
Did American Slavery Begin? -- Although this is essentially
a promotional site by Bedford-St. Martin's on behalf of the book
by this name, the pages here do offer a brief summary of some explanations
of how American slavery first developed as well as a short bibliography
and list of links to resources.
Peculiar Institution: A Primer On American Slavery, by Martha
L. Wharton for the North
Black Lives in Colonial New England, by Lee Lawrence, Special
to The Christian Science Monitor
the Cradle of Liberty Became a Slave-Owning Nation, by Susan
DeFord,Special to The Washington Post
Newspaper items related to "Slavery
and Sertitude" in the Newspapers
at the Colonial Records Project of the North Carolina Office of
Archives and History
Black Perspective of American History by Leon Dixon, Gerald
Hynes, and Carolyn Gaines Nelson for the W.E.B. DuBois Learning
Center. See, in particular: Part
One: Prior to the American Revolution; Part
Two: American History Through 1800; and Part
Three: Slave Revolts, Insurrection, and Conspiracies.
The Just the Beginning
Foundation: From Slavery to the Supreme Court, The African-American
Journey Through the Federal Courts produced by Chicago-Kent
College of Law, the Illinois Institute of Technology, and the Just
the Beginning Foundation. Be sure to see the Online
the Leg Irons: Restriction of Legal Rights for Slaves in Virginia
and Maryland, 1625 - 1791. Slavery In Early America's Colonies--
Seeds of Servitude
About Slavery at the Gilder-Lehrman Institute of American History.
Read the short overview, Slavery
and the American Revolution, and then go on to The
Gilder Lehman Documents Search to locate other materials related
to this topic.(As one example, see Virginia
Slave Laws ). An excellent package of resources.
Eighteenth and Early Nineteenth-Century
Travelers Who Commented on Slavery
Efforts By Clergymen
What's Missing in This Picture? Representation and Nonrepresentation
of African Americans in Graphical Depictions of the Revolution
What's wrong with this picture?
Fighting for Freedom by Fighting For and Against "Independence"
Black Soldiers, an essay by Robert A. Selig ( at AmericanRevolution.Org)
describing how black Americans were often prevented from serving
in the militia or Continental Army but were rewarded by the English
for joining the British and Hessian forces.
Hamilton to John Jay
Letter arguing that blacks should be admitted
to the revolutionary army because they have unrecognized capacities
and because otherwise the English will enlist them in the opposition
forces. Hamilton's several arguments can, perhaps be see at work in
this short quote:
But it should be considered, that if we do not make
use of them in this way, the enemy probably will; and that the best
way to counteract the temptations they will hold out will be to
offer them ourselves. An essential part of the plan is to give them
their freedom with their muskets. This will secure their fidelity,
animate their courage, and I believe will have a good influence
upon those who remain, by opening a door to their emancipation.
Loyalists: Our People, Our History, a site available as part
of Canada's Digital Collections,
tells the story of African-Americans who gained their freedom by
joining the British army in the revolution and of their descendants
who continue to celebrate their revolutionary past. This site is
particularly valuable because it offers information and a perspective
too often missing in American treatments of the revolution.
African Slave, or Memoirs of Boyrereau Brinch, Nick-named Jeffrey
Containing an Account of the Kingdom of Bow-Woo, in the Interior
of Africa; with the Climate and Natural Productions, Laws, and Customs
Peculiar to That Place. With an Account of His Captivity, Sufferings,
Sales, Travels, Emancipation, Conversion to the Christian Religion,
Knowledge of the Scriptures, &c. Interspersed with Strictures
on Slavery, Speculative Observations on the Qualities of Human Nature,
with Quotation from Scripture, Boyrereau Brinch. Prentiss, Benjamin
F. (Benjamin Franklin), 1774 or 5-1817. Available online through
Documenting the American
South at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. For
more information on Brace, see Revolutionary
War Pension File: Jeffery Brace a.k.a. Stiles.(African-American
soldier, 6th Connecticut Regiment) Transcribed by John U. Rees
and available through AMERICANREVOLUTION.ORG.
Revolutionizing the Revolution AGAIN --Trying to Redeem the Promise
of the Revolution by Revisiting It in the 19th Century
from Slave Narratives, Edited by Steven Mintz, University of Houston.
Includes samples from 17th, 18th, and 19th century texts.
Some Notable 18th Century African Americans
Adams and John Adams Letters; Abigail Adams Letter to Mercy Otis
Warren (1776) -- Correspondence on women's rights and the
Present-Day Discussions Related to These Issues:
George:Down at Mount Vernon, they are resurrecting a new and improved
George Washington for the next millennium, at WashingtonCityPaper.Com.
Washington Deemed Politically Incorrect, a report on the
controversy over the 1997 decision by Louisiana's Orleans Parish
School Board to change the name of the George ashington Elementary
School because Washington owned slaves.
The American Revolution, a brief but informative essay posted
on the Education section of the Africana.com
website, describes the roles played by African-Americans in
both the American and British armies.
The Creation of the American Republic: Shared and Conflicting
Values, 1763-1789, offers short excerpts from: A. Philip
Freneau's 1788, "The Indian Student." 1788;. Reverend
John Allen's 1722 "An Oration on the Beauties of Liberty";
Phyllis Wheatley's 1774 Letter to Rev. Samson Occam; and Judith
Sargent Murray's 1790, "On the Equality of the Sexes."
This page is from the late William Gilmore's unique site CLIO'S
DIGITAL FORGE, which "explores the heritage and history
of all of the peoples inhabiting the middle portion of North
America (the United States) through the Civil War era."
Bill was an enthusiastic pioneer in the using the web to connect
students, teachers, and scholars with primary source materials.
Roots of American Slavery: A Bibliographical Essay
, by Philip
J. Schwarz of the Department of History at Virginia Commonwealth
University provides a remarkable and lucid overview of the main
issues and important texts that chart the history of slavery in
And for an excellent bibliography of texts on this topic, see
The British Library's list of American
Slavery: Pre-1866 Imprints, available online as a pdf. file.
(Do not expect links to electronic texts.)