Enslavement Timeline 1619 to 1696

Painting from 1670 showing slaves working on a plantation.

Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

Historian Frances Latimer argues that enslavement "happened one law at a time, one person at a time." As the American colonies grew throughout the 17th Century, human bondage transformed from indentured servitude to a life of enslavement.

Enslavement Timeline: 1619 to 1696

  • 1612: Commercial tobacco is raised in Jamestown, Va.
  • 1619: Twenty Africans are transported to Jamestown. They were imported to work as enslaved people 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 sails from Massachusetts. This marks the beginning of colonial North America's participation in the trans-Atlantic trade of enslaved people.
  • 1640: John Punch becomes the first documented enslaved person 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 freedom seekers.
  • 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 freedom seeker law is established in the New England Confederation. The Confederation includes Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New Haven.
  • 1650: Connecticut legalizes enslavement.
  • 1652: Rhode Island creates laws restricting and then forbidding enslavement.
  • 1652: All Black and Native American servants are mandated to take military training by Massachusetts law.
  • 1654: Black people are granted the right to be enslavers in Virginia.
  • 1657: Virginia passes a freedom seeker law.
  • 1660: The Council of Foreign Plantations is ordered by Charles II, King of England, to convert enslaved people and indentured servants to Christianity.
  • 1662: Virginia passes a law establishing hereditary enslavement. 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 Black people from bearing arms. States such as New York, Connecticut, and New Hampshire followed suit.
  • 1663: The first documented rebellion of enslaved people takes place in Gloucester County, Va.
  • 1663: The state of Maryland legalizes enslavement.
  • 1663: Charles II gives North Carolina and South Carolina to enslavers.
  • 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 enslaved Black people legal. Colonies such as New York, New Jersey, the Carolinas, and Virginia pass similar laws.
  • 1666: Maryland enacts a freedom seeker law.
  • 1667: Virginia passes a law stating that Christian baptism will not change a person's status as an enslaved individual.
  • 1668: New Jersey passes a freedom seeker 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: Enslaved people, as well as Black and White indentured servants, participate in Bacon's Rebellion.
  • 1680: Virginia passes laws prohibiting Black people—freed or enslaved—from bearing arms and congregating in large numbers. The law also enforces stiff punishments for enslaved people who try to escape or attack White Christians.
  • 1682: Virginia passes a law announcing that all imported Africans will be enslaved people for life.
  • 1684: New York prohibits enslaved people from selling goods.
  • 1688: Pennsylvania Quakers establish the first anti-enslavement resolution.
  • 1691: Virginia creates its first anti-miscegenation law, prohibiting marriage between White and Black people as well as between White people and Native Americans.
  • 1691: Virginia declares it illegal to free enslaved people within its borders. As a result, formerly enslaved people must leave the colony.
  • 1691: South Carolina establishes its first set of enslavement codes.
  • 1694: The importation of Africans increases tremendously into the Carolinas after rice cultivation is developed.
  • 1696: Royal African Trade Company loses its monopoly. New England colonists enter into the trade of enslaved people.