2019 marks anniversary of Africans' arrival

A historic map shows Point Comfort on the Virginia shore.
A historic map shows Point Comfort on the Virginia shore.

The year 2019 will mark two pivotal anniversaries for the commonwealth of Virginia -- and for the United States.

    It will be the 400th anniversary of the first representative legislative assembly in the New World in 1619. But it will also mark the arrival of the first Africans to English North America.
     The Africans were to become slaves, a practice that changed the course of history. By the American Revolution, the morality of slavery was hotly debated but tolerated. And a century later, slavery would become the root cause of the Civil War (1860-65). But how and why were slaves first brought to the continent? Here is the rundown, along with links for further study:

The first slaves: The first slaves to arrive in Virginia were originally from Angola in West Central Africa, the Historic Jamestown website recounts. Captured by the Portuguese, they were then marched 100 to 200 miles and put on board the San Juan Bautista, which was headed for Vera Cruz, on the coast of Mexico. Two English privateer ships, the White Lion and the Treasurer, attacked the slave ship and robed it of 50 to 60 Africans.
     These captives spoke Kimbundu, and many had some knowledge of Catholicism, according to the Encyclopedia Virginia online, a website in partnership with the Library of Virginia.
Landing: The White Lion and the Treasurer arrived at Point Comfort, on the James River, in August 1619, recounts Encyclopedia Virginia.
     At the time, Virginia had no laws sanctioning slavery. The White Lion brought 20 Africans. The Treasurer may have sold seven to nine Africans. That ship then sailed for Bermuda.

What happened then? Gov. Sir George Yeardley and a merchant, Abraham Piersey, purchased most of the first slaves. At the time, slavery wasn't a part of the law. But in 1662, slavery was recognized in the Colony's statutory law, according to the National Park Service.
     By 1775, the number of African-Americans in the Colonies had grown to nearly 500,000, according to Encyclopedia.com. They made up almost 20 percent of the Colonial population.



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