21 Anniversary

For more information:

Beginning of American Slavery - This Day in History - August 25, 1619

Posted on Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Related Posts

On This Day in History, August 25, 1619, the White Lion arrived in Point Comfort Virginia carrying more than 20 enslaved Africans, signaling the beginning of America's barbaric system of chattel slavery

Historical Marker in Point Comfort Virginia - Photo Credit: Heather Hughes Ostermaier - National Parks Conservation Association

The "20 and odd" slaves brought to Virginia on this date in 1619 were not the first Africans to travel to North America. Juan Garrido, a Kongolese conquistador who traveled to Portugal as a young man before joining a Spanish expedition to the new world is believed to be the first person of African descent to set foot on the continent while accompanying Ponce de Leon to Florida. Nor were these slaves the first slaves in North America as Spanish colonies in present day Florida held slaves in North America nearly half a century earlier. Early Colonists in Virginia would also enslave local Native Americans before the White Lion ever arrived in Virginia carrying slaves to the Colony.

But the slaves who arrived in Virginia were the first to arrive in Britain's North American colonies and their arrival marked the beginning of what would become 250 years of chattel slavery. From the moment of their arrival, the issue of slavery impacted nearly every major decision made in the future United States of America. When the first slaves arrived in Virginia, Pennsylvania did not yet exist and wouldn't until it's founding over 50 years later by William Penn. The land that would become Pennsylvania, was then owned by the Swedes and later by the Dutch, both of whom brought African Slaves to the region as early as 1639. After the land was taken over by the British, it was granted to William Penn, an English Quaker who believed in the equality of man and freedom of religion. Penn's arrival did not however lead to an end of slavery, despite his beliefs, Penn himself was a slave owner. The first slave ship to dock in Philadelphia arrived in 1684, just two year's after the city's founding, carrying approximately 150 enslaved Africans.

Quakers in Philadelphia turned against the institution of slavery and the first Anti-slavery protest in Pennsylvania occurred not long after the arrival of the first slaves when in 1688 a protest against slavery took place in Germantown. Despite significant anti-slavery leanings in the city of Philadelphia where free Africans Americans outnumbered slaves in the late 18th century, slavery was none the less able to continue. In two historic meetings at Independence Hall in Philadelphia during this time, the Second Continental Congress and the Constitutional Convention, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States were signed respectively. During both historic meetings, the condemning of and outlawing of American Slavery was discussed and fought for by abolitionists, but in both meetings the abolitionists failed to overcome strong support for the institution of slavery by slave owners. References to the evil of slavery were removed from the Declaration of Independence, and the Constitution instead of outlawing slavery, preserved it by law. Slavery would persist through the founding of the United States of America and through nearly the first century of its history and was only ended after a bloody Civil War which claimed the lives of over three quarters of a million Americans. 

Visit the Spirits of 76 Ghost Tours