The First Slave Colony

It is believed the first African slave colony in North America was established in San Miguel de Gualdape (a colony in what is now South Carolina) in 1526. Africans had been brought as servants a few years earlier (1519). However, there are a few different theories as to the first arrival of slaves.

It was not the first slave colony in the world, but an extension of an existing idea as people moved into the New World.

Lucas Vázquez de Ayllón, a Spaniard, is the man who established the colony and requested the slaves.

San Miguel de Gualdape did not last long as a colony (only 3 months) and the slaves revolted (also the first slave revolt in North America).

San Miguel de Gualdape was also the site of the first mass on American soil.

Big Business

Slavery in the United States became a huge business in the 18th and 19th centuries. At its peak (around 1808), approximately 4 million slaves were kept in the US. This is thought to have 8% of American families having a slave, and 1 in 4 of families in the slave-owning states.

It is guessed that 12 million slaves arrived in the US. Many more died at sea, or in camps in Africa.

It is reported that in the 72 years between George Washington and Abraham Lincoln being presidents, 50 of those 72 years had American Presidents owning slaves.

Legal Status

The American Constitution, adopted in 1787, did not look at importing slaves until 1808. In 1787, a law was passed that meant only 3/5 of slaves could be counted as residents of the US for taxation or political discussion.

The Civil War

Slavery became a major issue during the American Civil War (1861 – 1865), as the north had already outlawed the idea. However, it was not the reason the Civil War happened: that was more to do with the South wanting to leave the union. The fact that the North won the civil war meant that slavery got abolished.

On January 1st 1863, Lincoln promised emancipation of the slaves. In 1864 the Thirteenth Amendment outlawed slavery.