Equality and Civil Rights: a Chronology of Black History di Giulia Tomasi Cont, Davide Pignata

The first Africans

Looking Ahead

After the end of this section, you will be able to:

- tell when and where the first Africans arrived in the Americas.

Jamestown and Virginia. Growth of the Colony

In 1607, the first band of colonies arrived in [E1] [F] [Es] [I] Virginia. By 1619, tobacco was the colonyís major product. As Jamestown became successful, colonists spread along the James River and inland along other rives. Settlements called [Es] [I] plantations were established and farmers began to raise tobacco on the fertile land. To grow tobacco, large amount of land and labor were needed. Virginia in its early days had plenty of land, once the [E] Native Americans were removed. But the supply of labor was a problem.

To get more workers, the planters started to hire indentured servants. These were people who agreed to work without pay for a certain period in exchange for their passage to the colony. During the time of indenture, servants received food, clothing and housing. They could not leave or marry until they had finished their contract. Those who disobeyed were punished. When the contract was finished, a servant received 20 hectares of land and enough supplies to start a farm.

As the demand of tobacco grew, the indentured system did not provide enough workers for the fields. What seemed like the answer to the problem began a chain of events that led to slavery, the owning of people, in the English colonies.

In 1619, a Dutch ship sailed into Jamestown Harbour with a number of Africans abroad. Although their services were bought by planters, the 1623 census of the colony lists them as servants. Like European indentured servants, they worked for a certain period of years for food, clothing and shelter. At the end of their contracts, they received land. This appears to be true until the 1650s.

But things were changing. By the 1640s, Africans were being forced to work longer and longer terms of services. By 1660, Virginia had made [E1] [E2] [E3] [E4] [E5] [F] [Es] [I1] [I2] [I3] [I4] [I5] slavery legal for [E] Africans. Over the next 100 years, Africans as slaves took the place of European indentured servants. By 1750, slaves made up almost half the [E1] [E2] population of Virginia.

[E1] [E2] Slavery in Maryland

Besides Virginia, [Es] Maryland was one of the earliest southern colonies to employ slave labor. In the beginning, white indentured servants worked Marylandís tobacco plantations. In 1671, slaves were only about five percent of Marylandís population. But in late 1600s, Charles II allowed the Royal African Company to sell slaves in the colonies. As a result, the number of slaves in Maryland increased rapidly. By 1700, slaves made up 20 percent of Marylandís population.


The founders of [E] [I] Carolina had one purpose in mind for their colony. They wanted to make money for them. In 1666, the proprietors set their plan in order to attract settlers. Any free person who came with family and servants would be given land to work and live on forever. For each man, woman, child and male servant 40 hectares were given. Twenty hectares were given for each female servant and slave. In addition, indentured servants would be given land at the end of their contracts. Men would receive 40 hectares and women half that amount. Indentured servants made up most of the labor force until the early 1700s. Then planters began bringing in large numbers of Africans as slaves.

Looking Back

- When did the first Africans arrive in the Americas?

- Where did they arrive?



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