Timeline: Enslavement in the Cape Colony

Enslaved Black people being auctioned off with a crowd of White people staring and pointing at them
This engraving by S.M. Slader, entitled "Sale of a Negro Family," depicts enslaved people being auctioned off in South Africa's Cape of Good Hope.

Hulton Archive / Getty Images

Many South Africans are the descendants of enslaved people brought to the Cape Colony from 1653 until 1822.

1652: Refreshment station established at the Cape, in April, by The Dutch East India Company, based in Amsterdam, to provide for its ships on their voyage to the East. In May the commander, Jan van Riebeeck, requests that enslaved people be brought and forced to perform duties as laborers.

1653: Abraham van Batavia, the first enslaved man, arrives.

1654: A voyage is undertaken from the Cape via Mauritius to Madagascar with the intention of capturing and enslaving people.

1658: Farms granted to Dutch free burghers (ex-Company soldiers). Secret journey into Dahomey (Benin) brings 228 enslaved people. Portuguese enslaver with 500 enslaved Angolans captured by the Dutch; 174 land at the Cape.

1687: Free burghers petition for the trade of enslaved people to be opened to free enterprise.

1700: Government directive restricting enslaved males from being brought from the East.

1717: Dutch East India Company ends assisted immigration from Europe.

1719: Free burghers petition again for the trade of enslaved people to be opened to free enterprise.

1720: France occupies Mauritius.

1722: Post used to trade and transport enslaved people established at Maputo (Lourenco Marques) by Dutch.

1732: Maputo post used to trade and transport enslaved people abandoned due to mutiny.

1745-46: Free burghers petition again for the trade of enslaved people to be opened to free enterprise.

1753: Governor Rijk Tulbagh codifies a set of laws designed to lay out general terms of enslavement including the rights—and lack of rights—of enslaved people and permitted forms of discipline by enslavers against the people they enslaved.

1767: Abolition of importation of enslaved men from Asia.

1779: Free burghers petition again for the trade of enslaved people to be opened to free enterprise.

1784: Free burghers petition again for the trade of enslaved people to be opened to free enterprise. Government directive abolishing the importation of enslaved men from Asia repeated.

1787: Government directive abolishing the importation of enslaved men from Asia repeated again.

1791: The trade of enslaved people opened to free enterprise.

1795: British take over the Cape Colony. Torture of enslaved people abolished.

1802: The Dutch regain control of the Cape.

1806: Britain occupies the Cape again.

1807: Britain passes the Abolition of Slave Trade Act.

1808: Britain enforces the Abolition of Slave Trade Act, ending the external trade of enslaved people. Enslaved people can now be traded only within the colony.

1813: Fiscal Dennyson codifies the Cape Slave Law.

1822: Last enslaved people imported, illegally.

1825: Royal Commission of Enquiry at the Cape investigates Cape's practice of enslavement.

1826: Guardian of Slaves appointed. Revolt by Cape enslavers.

1828: Enslaved people working for Lodge (Company) and enslaved Khoi people emancipated.

1830: Enslavers required to start keeping a record of punishments.

1833: Emancipation Decree issued in London.

1834: Enslavement abolished. Enslaved people become "apprentices" for four years under their enslavers. This arrangement still greatly restricted the rights of enslaved people and required them to work for their enslavers but did not permit enslavers to inflict physical punishment on the people they enslaved.

1838: End of "apprenticeship" for formerly enslaved people.

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Boddy-Evans, Alistair. "Timeline: Enslavement in the Cape Colony." ThoughtCo, Nov. 19, 2020, thoughtco.com/timeline-slavery-in-the-cape-colony-44550. Boddy-Evans, Alistair. (2020, November 19). Timeline: Enslavement in the Cape Colony. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/timeline-slavery-in-the-cape-colony-44550 Boddy-Evans, Alistair. "Timeline: Enslavement in the Cape Colony." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/timeline-slavery-in-the-cape-colony-44550 (accessed May 8, 2021).