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18th century



  • The Virginia Slave codes define as slaves all those servants brought into the colony who were not Christian in their original countries, as well as those American Indians sold by other Indians to colonists.


  • April 6 – The New York Slave Revolt of 1712.


  • September 9 – In the Stono Rebellion, South Carolina slaves gather at the Stono River to plan an armed march for freedom.


  • Benjamin Banneker designed and built the first clock in the British American colonies. He also created a series of almanacs. He corresponded with Thomas Jefferson and wrote that "blacks were intellectually equal to whites". Banneker worked with Pierre L'Enfant to survey and design a street and urban plan for Washington, D.C.


  • Jupiter Hammon has a poem printed, becoming the first published African-American poet.


  • Non-Importation Agreements – The First Continental Congress creates a multi-colony agreement to forbid importation of anything from British merchants. This implicitly includes slaves, and stops the slave trade in Philadelphia. The second similar act explicitly stops the slave trade.


  • March 5 – Crispus Attucks is killed by British soldiers in the Boston Massacre, a precursor to the American Revolution.


  • Phillis Wheatley has her book Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral published.


  • The first black Baptist congregations are organized in the South: Silver Bluff Baptist Church in South Carolina, and First African Baptist Church near Petersburg, Virginia.


  • April 14 – The Society for the Relief of Free Negroes Unlawfully Held in Bondage holds four meetings. It was re-formed in 1784 as the Pennsylvania Abolition Society, and Benjamin Franklin would later be its president.

1776–1783 American Revolution

  • Thousands of enslaved African Americans in the South escape to British lines, as they were promised freedom to fight with the British. In South Carolina, 25,000 enslaved African Americans, one-quarter of those held, escape to the British or otherwise leave their plantations.  After the war, many African Americans are evacuated with the British for England; more than 3,000 Black Loyalists are transported with other Loyalists to Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, where they are granted land. Still others go to Jamaica and the West Indies. An estimated 8–10,000 were evacuated from the colonies in these years as free people, about 50 percent of those slaves who defected to the British and about 80 percent of those who survived.

  • Many free blacks in the North fight with the colonists for the rebellion.


  • July 8 – The Vermont Republic (a sovereign nation at the time) abolishes slavery, the first future state to do so. No slaves were held in Vermont.


  • Pennsylvania becomes the first U.S. state to abolish slavery.


  • In challenges by Elizabeth Freeman and Quock Walker, two independent county courts in Massachusetts found slavery illegal under state constitution and declared each to be free persons.


  • Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court affirmed that Massachusetts state constitution had abolished slavery. It ruled that "the granting of rights and privileges [was] wholly incompatible and repugnant to" slavery, in an appeal case arising from the escape of former slave Quock Walker. When the British left New York and Charleston in 1783, they took the last of 5500 Loyalists to the Caribbean, along with some 15,000 slaves.


  • July 13 – The Northwest Ordinance bans the expansion of slavery into U.S. territories north of the Ohio River and east of the Mississippi River.


  • The First African Baptist Church of Savannah, Georgia is organized under Andrew Bryan.

1790–1810 Manumission of slaves

  • Following the Revolution, numerous slaveholders in the Upper South free their slaves; the percentage of free blacks rises from less than one to 10 percent. By 1810, 75 percent of all blacks in Delaware are free, and 7.2 percent of blacks in Virginia are free.


  • February – Major Andrew Ellicott hires Benjamin Banneker, an African-American draftsman, to assist in a survey of the boundaries of the 100-square-mile (260 km2) federal district that would later become the District of Columbia.


  • February 12 – The Fugitive Slave Act of 1793 is passed. 


  • March 14 – Eli Whitney is granted a patent on the cotton gin. This enables the cultivation and processing of short-staple cotton to be profitable in the uplands and interior areas of the Deep South; as this cotton can be cultivated in a wide area, the change dramatically increases the need for enslaved labor and leads to the development of King Cotton as the chief commodity crop. To satisfy labor demand, there is a forced migration of one million slaves from the Upper South and coast to the area in the antebellum period, mostly by the domestic slave trade.

  • July – Two independent black churches open in Philadelphia: the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas, with Absalom Jones, and the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, with Richard Allen, the latter the first church of what would become in 1816 the first independent black denomination in the United States.

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