African American History and Women Timeline

This page: 1492-1699

Engraving: Ship Carrying Enslaved People Arrives in Virginia 1619
A ship carrying enslaved people arrives in Virginia 1619 in this engraving. Hulton Archive / Getty Images

What have African American women contributed to American history? How have they been affected by historical events? Find out in the timeline, which includes these:

  • events featuring African American women
  • birth and death dates for many notable African American women
  • general African American events which had significant impact on African American women and families as well as men
  • events involving key women whose work influenced African American history, for instance the involvement of many European American women in anti-enslavement work
  • birth and death dates for key women whose work was important in African American history, for instance in anti-enslavement or civil rights work

Start with the timeline period you're most interested in:

[1492-1699] [1700-1799] [1800-1859] [1860-1869] [1870-1899] [1900-1919] [1920-1929] [1930-1939] [1940-1949] [1950-1959] [1960-1969] [1970-1979] [1980-1989] [1990-1999] [2000-]

Women and African American History: 1492-1699


• Columbus discovered America, from the perspective of Europeans. Queen Isabella of Spain declared all indigenous peoples her subjects, in the lands claimed by Columbus for Spain, preventing the Spanish conquerors from enslaving the Native Americans. The Spanish thus looked elsewhere for the labor they needed to take advantage of the New World's economic opportunities.


• Spain permitted enslaved African to be sent to the Americas


• first enslaved African arrived in Hispaniola


• Isabel de Olvero, part of the Juan Guerra de Pesa Expedition, helped to colonize what has since become New Mexico


• (August 20) 20 captive men and women from Africa arrived on a ship and were sold in the first North American auction of enslaved people -- by British and international custom, Africans could be held in servitude for life, though White Christian indentured servants could only be held for a limited term


• Anthony Johnson, son of an African mother, arrived in Virginia. He lived with his wife, Mary Johnson, in Accomack on Virginia's Eastern Shore, the first free Negroes in Virginia (Anthony taking his last name from his original enslaver). Anthony and Mary Johnson eventually founded the first free Black community in North America, and themselves held servants "for life."


• Virginia census lists 23 "Negroes" including some women; ten have no names listed and the rest only first names, likely indicating lifetime servitude -- none of the women are listed as married


• Virginia census lists twelve Black men and eleven Black women; most have no names and do not have the dates of arrival that most White servants in the census have listed -- only one of the Black men and women has a full name listed


• Massachusetts legalized enslavement, specifying that a child inherited its status from the mother, rather than the father, reversing English common law

about 1648

Tituba born (Salem witch trials figure; probably of Carib not African heritage)


Elizabeth Key, whose mother was an enslaved woman and father was a White enslaver, sued for her freedom, claiming her father's free status and her baptism as grounds -- and the courts upheld her claim


A daughter of a free Negro Anthony Johnson, Jone Johnson, was given 100 acres of land by Debeada, an Indian ruler.


• Maryland passed a law making every person of African descent in the colony an enslaved person, including all children of African descent at birth whatever the free or enslaved status of the child's parents.


• Virginia House of Burgesses passed a law that a child's status followed the mother's, if the mother was not a White woman, contrary to English common law in which the father's status determined the child's


• Maryland passed a law under which free White women would lose their freedom if they married an enslaved Black person, and under which the children of White women and Black men became enslaved.


• Maryland became the first of the future states to pass a law making it illegal for free English women to marry "Negro slaves"


• Virginia passed a law stating that baptism could not free "slaves by birth"


• Virginia legislature declared that free Black women were to be taxed, but not White women servants or other White women; that "negro women, though permitted to enjoy their freedome" could not have the rights of "the English."


• Virginia passed a law that "Negroes" or Indians, even those free and baptized, could not purchase any Christians, but could purchase "any of their owne nation [=race]" (i.e. free Africans could buy Africans and Indians could buy Indians)


• Aphra Behn (1640-1689, England) published the anti-enslavement Oroonoka, or the History of the Royal Slave, first novel in English by a woman


• The term "white" is first used, rather than specific terms like "English" or "Dutchman," in a law referring to "English or other white women."


Tituba disappeared from history (Salem witch trials figure; probably of Carib not African heritage)


[1492-1699] [1700-1799] [1800-1859] [1860-1869] [1870-1899] [1900-1919] [1920-1929] [1930-1939] [1940-1949] [1950-1959] [1960-1969] [1970-1979] [1980-1989] [1990-1999] [2000-]

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Your Citation
Lewis, Jone Johnson. "African American History and Women Timeline." ThoughtCo, Aug. 27, 2020, Lewis, Jone Johnson. (2020, August 27). African American History and Women Timeline. Retrieved from Lewis, Jone Johnson. "African American History and Women Timeline." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 3, 2023).