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17th century


  • The first record of Africans in English colonial America when men were brought at first to Fort Monroe off the coast of Hampton, Virginia, and then to the Jamestown colony who had been taken as prizes from a Spanish ship. They were treated as indentured servants, and at least one was recorded as eventually owning land in the colony.


  • John Punch, a black indentured servant, ran away with two white indentured servants, James, Gregory, and Victor. After the three were captured, Punch was sentenced to serve Virginia planter Hugh Gwyn for life. This made John Punch the first legally documented slave in Virginia (and the US).


  • John Casor, a black man who claimed to have completed his term of indenture, became the first legally recognized slave-for-life in a civil case in the Virginia colony. The court ruled with his master who said he had an indefinite servitude for life.


  • Virginia law, using the principle of partus sequitur ventrem, said that children in the colony were born into their mother's social status; therefore children born to enslaved mothers were classified as slaves, regardless of their father's race or status. This was contrary to English common law for English subjects, which held that children took their father's social status.


  • Royal African Company is founded in England, allowing slaves to be shipped from Africa to the colonies in North America and the Caribbean. England entered the slave trade.


  • Both free and enslaved African Americans fought in Bacon's Rebellion along with English colonists.

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