1501—African Slaves in the New World
Spanish settlers bring slaves from Africa to Santo Domingo (now the capital of the Dominican Republic).

1522—Slave Revolt: the Caribbean
Slaves rebel on the Caribbean island of Hispaniola, which now comprises Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

1562—Britain Joins Slave Trade
John Hawkins, the first Briton to take part in the slave trade, makes a huge profit hauling human cargo from Africa to Hispaniola.

1581—Slaves in Florida
Spanish residents in St. Augustine, the first permanent settlement in Florida, import African slaves.


1619—Slaves in Virginia
Africans brought to Jamestown are the first slaves imported into Britain’s North American colonies. Like indentured servants, they were probably freed after a fixed period of service.

1662—Hereditary Slavery
Virginia law decrees that children of black mothers “shall be bond or free according to the condition of the mother.”


1705—Slaves as Property
Describing slaves as real estate, Virginia lawmakers allow owners to bequeath their slaves. The same law allowed masters to “kill and destroy” runaways.

1712—Slave Revolt: New York
Slaves in New York City kill whites during an uprising, later squelched by the militia. Nineteen rebels are executed.

1739—Slave Revolt: South Carolina
Crying “Liberty!” some 75 slaves in South Carolina steal weapons and flee toward freedom in Florida (then under Spanish rule). Crushed by the South Carolina militia, the revolt results in the deaths of 40 blacks and 20 whites.

1775—American Revolution Begins
Battles at the Massachusetts towns of Lexington and Concord on April 19 spark the war for American independence from Britain.

1775—Abolitionist Society
Anthony Benezet of Philadelphia founds the world’s first abolitionist society. Benjamin Franklin becomes its president in 1787.

1776—Declaration of Independence
The Continental Congress asserts “that these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States”.

1783—American Revolution Ends
Britain and the infant United States sign the Peace of Paris treaty.

1784—Abolition Effort
Congress narrowly defeats Thomas Jefferson’s proposal to ban slavery in new territories after 1800.

1790—First United States Census
Nearly 700,000 slaves live and toil in a nation of 3.9 million people.

1793—Fugitive Slave Act
The United States outlaws any efforts to impede the capture of runaway slaves.

1794—Cotton Gin
Eli Whitney patents his device for pulling seeds from cotton. The invention turns cotton into the cash crop of the American South—and creates a huge demand for slave labor.


1808—United States Bans Slave Trade
Importing African slaves is outlawed, but smuggling continues.

1820—Missouri Compromise
Missouri is admitted to the Union as a slave state, Maine as a free state. Slavery is forbidden in any subsequent territories north of latitude 36°30´.

1822—Slave Revolt: South Carolina
Freed slave Denmark Vesey attempts a rebellion in Charleston. Thirty-five participants in the ill-fated uprising are hanged.

1831—Slave Revolt: Virginia
Slave preacher Nat Turner leads a two-day uprising against whites, killing about 60. Militiamen crush the revolt then spend two months searching for Turner, who is eventually caught and hanged. Enraged Southerners impose harsher restrictions on their slaves.

Southern states expel abolitionists and forbid the mailing of antislavery propaganda.

1846-48—Mexican-American War
Defeated, Mexico yields an enormous amount of territory to the United States. Americans then wrestle with a controversial topic: Is slavery permitted in the new lands?

1847—Frederick Douglass’s Newspaper
Escaped slave Frederick Douglass begins publishing the North Star in Rochester, New York.

1849—Harriet Tubman Escapes
After fleeing slavery, Tubman returns south at least 15 times to help rescue several hundred others.

1850—Compromise of 1850
In exchange for California’s entering the Union as a free state, northern congressmen accept a harsher Fugitive Slave Act.

1852—Uncle Tom’s Cabin Published
Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel about the horrors of slavery sells 300,000 copies within a year of publication.

1854—Kansas-Nebraska Act
Setting aside the Missouri Compromise of 1820, Congress allows these two new territories to choose whether to allow slavery. Violent clashes erupt.

1857—Dred Scott Decision
The United States Supreme Court decides, seven to two, that blacks can never be citizens and that Congress has no authority to outlaw slavery in any territory.

1860—Abraham Lincoln Elected
Abraham Lincoln of Illinois becomes the first Republican to win the United States Presidency.

1860—Southern Secession
South Carolina secedes in December. More states follow the next year.

1861-65—United States Civil War
Four years of brutal conflict claim 623,000 lives.

1863—Emancipation Proclamation
President Abraham Lincoln decrees that all slaves in Rebel territory are free on January 1, 1863.

1865—Slavery Abolished
The 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution outlaws slavery.