The arrival of the kidnapped Africans in the New World on August 20, 1619, marked the beginning of more than two centuries of slavery in North America. The Portuguese captured Angolans to board them on a ship setting sail to the British colony of Virginia.
At the time of the arrival of the first group of enslaved people, the Virginia colony was already home to about 700 people. However, the stage was set for slavery in the United States as early as the 14th century when Spain and Portugal first started capturing Africans for enslavement in Europe. Slavery expanded to colonial America and in 1619 the first group was exchanged for food and the remaining captives were sold into slavery.
The names as well as the exact number of captives brought into the New World have been lost in history. The original group of enslaved people faced terrible conditions aboard the ship and many even died during the travel to Virginia.
Virginia became the first British colony to legally define slavery in mid-17th century North America, but enslaved people did not become the dominant source of labor until a few decades later. By the late 1680s African slave labor was dominating Virginia farms with the rise of cash crops such as tobacco, cotton and sugar. These crops caused the enslaved population to grow exponentially.
Over time, enslavement became a status tied specifically to race. With slavery being tied to race, new laws and attitudes were put in place to create a narrative of racial inferiority. This narrative depicted African people as morally corrupt and intellectually inferior and it also suggested that the enslaved people could benefit from their unjust treatment.
Overall, the trans-Atlantic Slave Trade uprooted nearly 10 million Africans from their native land. Approximately 5 million were kidnapped and taken to Brazil and more than 3 million were taken to the Caribbean.
Despite having one of the largest impacts, the number of Africans brought to mainland North America was relatively small (about 400,000). However, their labor was crucial to the economies of both Britain and the United States.
Even as the United States established their freedom from Britain and embraced being the “land of the free,” Virginia was home to the largest population of enslaved black people of any state in the Confederacy at the