Historian Frances Latimer argues that enslavement “happened one law at a time, one person at a time.” Throughout the 17th Centuries, as the American colonies grew, human bondage transformed from indentured servitude to a life of enslavement.
1612: Commercial tobacco is raised in Jamestown, Va.
1619: Twenty Africans are transported to Jamestown. They were imported to work as slaves in Great Britain’s American colonies.
1626: The Dutch West India Company brings eleven African-American men to the New Netherlands
1636: Desire, the first carrier in the United States to participate in human trade. The ship is built and first sales Massachusetts. This marks the beginning of colonial North America’s participation in the Transatlantic Slave Trade.
1640: John Punch becomes the first documented slave to receive servitude for life. An African servant, John Punch, is sentenced to life after running away. His white friends, who also ran away, received extended servitude.
1640: Residents of New Netherlands are prohibited from providing any assistance to fugitive slaves.
1641: The D’Angolas become the first recorded marriage between people of African descent.
1641: Massachusetts becomes the first colony to legalize enslavement.
1643: A fugitive slave law is established in the New England Confederation. The Confederation includes Massachusetts, Connecticut and New Haven.
1650: Connecticut legalizes enslavement.
1652: Rhode Island establishes laws restricting and then forbidding slavery.
1652: All black and Native American servants are mandated to take military training by Massachusetts law.
1654: Blacks are granted the right to be slaveholders in Virginia.
1657: Virginia passes a fugitive slave law.
1660: The Council of Foreign Plantations is ordered by Charles II, King of England, to convert slaves and indentured servants to Christianity.
1662: Virginia passes a law establishing hereditary slavery. The law states that children of African-American mothers “shall be bond or free according to the condition of the mother.”
1662: Massachusetts passes a law prohibiting blacks from bearing arms. States such as New York, Connecticut and New Hampshire follow suit.
1663: The first documented slave rebellion takes place in Gloucester County, Va.
1663: The state of Maryland legalizes enslavement.
1663: Charles II gives North Carolina and South Carolina to slave proprietors.
1664: Enslavement is legalized in New York and New Jersey.
1664: Maryland becomes the first colony to make marriage between white women and black men illegal.
1664: Maryland passes a law making lifelong servitude for black slaves legal. Colonies such as New York, New Jersey, the Carolinas and Virginia pass similar laws.
1666: Maryland enacts a fugitive slave law.
1667: Virginia passes a law stating that a Christian baptism will not change a person’s status as a slave.
1668: New Jersey passes a fugitive slave law.
1670: Free Africans and Native Americans are prohibited from owning white Christian servants by Virginia law.
1674: New York lawmakers declare that enslaved African-Americans who convert to Christianity will not be freed.
1676: Slaves as well as black and white indentured servants participate in Bacon’s Rebellion.
1680: Virginia passes laws prohibiting blacks–freed or enslaved–from bearing arms and congregating in large numbers. The law also enforces strong punishments for slaves who try to escape or attack white Christians.
1682: Virginia passes a law announcing that all imported Africans will be slaves for life.
1684: New York prohibits slaves from selling goods.
1688: Pennsylvania Quakers establish the first antislavery resolution.
1691: Virginia establishes its first anti-miscegenation law, prohibiting marriage between whites and blacks as well as whites and Native Americans.
1691: Virginia declares it illegal to free slaves within its borders. As a result, freed slaves must leave the colony.
1691: South Carolina establishes its first set of slave codes.
1694: Importation of Africans increases tremendously into the Carolinas after rice cultivation is established.
1696: The Royal African Trade Company loses its monopoly. New England colonists enter into the slave trade.