History of slavery

Timeline created by Slavery Museum webmaster
  • Oct 12, 1492

    Christopher Columbus lands in the New World

  • Jun 1, 1517

    Trans-Atlantic slave trade begins

  • Twenty African slaves arrive in Jamestown, Virginia

  • Eleven black male slaves are imported to New Netherland by the Dutch West India Company

  • Massachusetts becomes the first colony to legalize slavery

  • Connecticut legalizes slavery

  • Virginia officially recognizes slavery by statute

  • Maryland legalizes slavery

    A Maryland statute attempts to enforce a law that all blacks, even those who are free, would be slaves and all blacks born would be slaves regardless of the status of their mother. A slave rebellion occurs in Gloucester County, Virginia.
  • Slavery is legalized in New York and New Jersey

  • Maryland legally prohibits marriage between white women and black men

  • Virginian slaves and indentured servants participate in Bacon%u2019s Rebellion

  • Maryland law changed

    A new Maryland law changed the 1663 law by establishing that children born to free black women and black children of white women would be free.
  • Pennsylvania Quakers pass an anti-slavery resolution

  • Laws changed in South Carolina and Virginia

    Slave codes are passed by South Carolina. The manumission of slaves is prohibited in Virginia.
  • Slavery is legalized in Pennsylvania

  • Masschusetts law changed

    A Massachusetts law makes interracial marriage between blacks and whites illegal.
  • The importation of blacks is prohibited in Pennsylvania

  • Slave revolt in New York

    In a New York slave rebellion, 23 slaves in possession of guns and knives set fire to the home of a slave owner. The slaves killed nine whites and injured six others. The slaves responsible were captured and put on trial. Twenty-one of the slaves were found guilty and executed. The importation of slaves is prohibited in Pennsylvania. Freed blacks are prohibited from owning property in New York.
  • A fugitive slave law is enacted by New York State

  • Manumission becomes illegal in Virginia

  • The importation and use of black slaves is prohibited in Georgia

  • Changes in the law in Georgia and Florida

    The importation of black slaves is permitted by the Georgia trustees. Spanish Florida declares that freedom and land would be given to runaway slaves.
  • The Stono Rebellion

    In mid-August, a Charlestown newspaper announced the Security Act, requiring all white men carry firearms to church.
    Early on Sunday the 9th, about 20 slaves gathered near the Stono River, less than twenty miles from Charlestown. The slaves went to a shop that sold arms and ammunition, armed themselves, then killed the two shopkeepers.
    Other slaves joined the rebellion. The slaves stopped just before reaching the Edisto River.
    By dusk, about 30 were dead and 30 had escaped.
  • The Negro Act is passed in South Carolina

    The act makes it illegal for slaves to gather in groups, earn money, learn to read, and raise food. The act permits owners to kill rebellious slaves.
  • Georgia repeals its prohibition against slavery

  • Pennsylvania Quakers act

    Quakers in Pennsylvania prohibit members of the sect from owning slaves.
  • First casualty of the Revolution

    Crispus Attucks, a fugitive slave, is the first man, white or black, to be killed in the American Revolution.
  • Slave importation is prohibited by Georgia, Connecticut, and Rhode Island

  • The first abolitionist society is organized

  • Bunker Hill

    Black men fight for American independence.
  • Delaware prohibits slave importation

  • Vermont becomes the first colony to abolish slavery

  • Changes to the law in Delaware Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania

    Pennsylvania adopts a law that gradually emancipates slaves that are born after 1780 when they turn twenty-eight. The Massachusetts Constitution is adopted with a freedom clause that is interpreted as abolishing slavery. Delaware prohibits the importation of slaves.
  • Massachusetts abolishes slavery in the state

  • Maryland prohibits the importation of slaves

  • Changes to the law in Connecticut, North Carolina, and Rhode Island

    Connecticut and Rhode Island adopt gradual emancipation laws. North Carolina prohibits the importation of slaves.
  • Changes to the law in New York

    New York adopts a gradual emancipation law, prohibits slave importation, and allows slave owners to free their slaves without posting a bond.
  • The Northwest Ordinance

    The Northwest Ordinance prohibits slavery in the Northwest. Later it includes Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, and Wisconsin.
  • The three-fifths clause

    The U.S. Constitution is adopted and includes the three-fifths clause, which declares that slaves will be counted as three-fifths of a white person for the purpose of congressional representation.
  • The first Fugitive Slave Law

    The first Fugitive Slave Law is passed. It allows slave owners to pursue fugitive slaves across state lines and it becomes a criminal offense to help fugitive slaves.
  • The slave trade is prohibited

    The slave trade between the U.S. and other countries is prohibited by Congress.
  • Changes to the law in New York

    New York adopts a gradual emancipation law.
  • Changes to US law

    U.S. citizens are prohibited from exporting slaves.
  • Louisiana territory

    The Louisiana territory is purchased from France.
  • Changes to the law in New Jersey and Ohio

    Ohio enacts black codes in an attempt to deter fugitive slaves from coming to the state. New Jersey adopts a gradual emancipation law.
  • Underground Railroad

    The Underground Railroad is established.
  • Changes to British law

    The British Parliament bans the Atlantic slave trade.
  • Changes to US law

    The Atlantic slave trade is banned by the United States.
  • Changes in European laws

    Britain, France, and the Netherlands agree to ban the slave trade.
  • Changes in Spanish law

    Spain signs a treaty agreeing to end the slave trade north of the equator and to end it south of the equator in 1820.
  • Changes in the law in Georgia

    Georgia bans the slave trade.
  • Frederick Douglass is born

  • Changes in US law

    Slave trading is declared a capital offense by the United States.
  • The Missouri Compromise

    The Missouri Compromise makes slavery illegal in the Louisiana territory that is north of the Missouri border. Missouri is admitted as a slave state and Maine is admitted as a free state.
  • The colony of Liberia is founded for freed slaves

  • Tennessee bans slave trading

  • The Underground Railroad begins

    The Underground Railroad operated a vast network of stations (homes) that aided and abetted runaway slaves in their journey to the North and Canada. The most famous Underground Railroad conductor was Harriet Tubman.
  • Changes in the law in North Carolina and Virginia

    The Virginia legislature debates emancipation. It is the last time abolition is considered by a southern state until the Civil War. A North Carolina law prohibits teaching slaves from learning to read and write.
  • Nat Turner%u2019s rebellion

    Nat Turner%u2019s rebellion
    Nat Turner%u2019s rebellion occurs in Southampton, Virginia. Turner and six others kill his master's entire family. Then they went house-to-house, killing other whites. They gained the assistance of fifty to sixty slaves who helped kill at least 55 white people.
    The rebellion ended when the militia came out; during the pursuit, some slaves were captured and about 15 hanged. Turner escaped and hid out for about six weeks until captured. Imprisoned, he was sentenced to execution on 5 November 1831.
  • American Anti-Slavery Society

    The American Anti-Slavery Society is founded by William Lloyd Garrison and others.
  • The Carolinas reject abolition

    North and South Carolina request that other states control abolition activities.
  • Alabama, Georgia, and Virginia reject abolition

    Alabama, Georgia, and Virginia request that other states control abolition activities.
  • Changes to the law in Mississippi and Pennsylvania

    Pennsylvania and Mississippi take away the right of blacks to vote.
  • Frederick Douglass escapes from slavery

  • The Amistad rebellion

    Slaves aboard the ship Amistad rebel, killing the captain and cook. After the ship arrives off the coast of Long Island, the slaves seek their freedom in court.
  • The Amistad ruling

    The Supreme Court rules that the slaves aboard the Amistad are free.
  • Frederick Douglass speaks in Lowell

    Frederick Douglass, the well-known African American abolitionist, gave a lecture at the Anti-Slavery Convention in Lowell, Massachusetts.
  • Changes in the law in North Carolina and Oregon

    Slavery is prohibited in Oregon. Free blacks are denied citizenships in North Carolina.
  • Frederick Douglass

    Frederick Douglass%u2019 autobiography, "The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass", is published.
  • Texas is admitted to the Union as a slave state

  • Wilmot Proviso

    An amendment to a bill in the U.S. House of Representatives during the Mexican War, providing $2 million to negotiate a territorial settlement with Mexico. David Wilmot of Pennsylvania introduced an amendment to the bill stipulating that none of the territory acquired in the Mexican War should be open to slavery. The amended bill was passed in the House, but the Senate adjourned without voting on it.
  • Slavery is prohibited in Connecticut

  • Changes in US law

    California is admitted as a free state. As a compromise, the slave states Utah and New Mexico are admitted without restrictions, but the slave trade is banned in D.C. The second Fugitive Slave Law is passed. It is enforced by the federal government.
  • Fugitive Slave Act

    The result of the Fugitive Slave Act was that any federal marshal or other official who did not arrest an alleged runaway slave liable to a fine of $1,000. Law-enforcement officials everywhere in the United States had a duty to arrest anyone suspected of being a fugitive slave on no more evidence than a claimant's sworn testimony of ownership. The suspected slave could not ask for a jury trial or testify on his or her own behalf.
  • Uncle Tom

    "Uncle Tom%u2019s Cabin", written by abolitionist Harriet Beecher Stowe, is published.
  • Missouri Compromise is repealed

    The Missouri Compromise is repealed by the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which allows popular sovereignty to determine the status of Kansas and Nebraska.
  • Dred Scott Decision

    Dred Scott v. Sandford was a decision by the United States Supreme Court that ruled that people of African descent imported into the United States and held as slaves, or their descendants%u2014whether or not they were slaves%u2014could never be citizens of the United States, and that the United States Congress had no authority to prohibit slavery in federal territories.
  • Dred Scott

    The Dred Scott decision denies citizenship to all slaves, ex-slaves, and slave descendants.
  • Kansas is admitted to the Union as a free state.

  • John Brown attacks Harper's Ferry

    The Raid on Harpers Ferry was an attempt by abolitionist John Brown to start an armed slave revolt by seizing a United States Arsenal at Harpers Ferry. Brown's raid was defeated by a detachment of U.S. Marines led by Colonel Robert E. Lee, later a Confederate general during the Civil War.
  • John Brown's raid

    John Brown leads an unsuccessful raid on the Federal arsenal in Harper%u2019s Ferry, Virginia. Brown was wounded and quickly captured, and moved to Charlestown, Virginia, where he was tried and convicted of treason. John Brown was hanged on 2 December 1859.
  • John Brown hanged

    John Brown was hanged in Harper's Ferry, Virginia on 2 December 1859.
  • Abraham Lincoln is elected president

  • Abraham Lincoln becomes President

    Abraham Lincoln was the sixteenth President of the United States.
  • The beginning of the Civil War

    The first shots are fired at Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor.
  • Secession begins

    South Carolina secedes from the Union. Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Texas, Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee, and North Carolina follow.
  • The Emancipation Proclamation

    The Emancipation Proclamation
    Abraham Lincoln issues the Emancipation Proclamation, designating that "all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free."
  • The Emancipation Proclamation goes into effect

  • Slavery is abolished in Utah

  • Slavery is abolished in Maryland

  • Changes in US law

    The Fugitive Slave Law is repealed. Slavery is abolished in Louisiana, Arkansas, and Missouri.
  • Abraham Lincoln is reelected president

  • General Lee surrenders to General Grant at Appomattox

  • The end of the Civil War

    The soldiers of the Army of Northern Virginia surrender at Appomattox, Virginia, effectively ending the War.
  • Abraham Lincoln is assassinated

    On 14 April 1865, Lincoln was assassinated while attending a play at Ford's Theater in Washington, D.C.
    Actor John Wilkes Booth shot him in the back of the head before jumping onto the stage and escaping to Maryland. Lincoln died on 15 April.
    On 26 April, Booth was found hiding in a barn which was set on fire. He was then shot and killed. Eight conspirators were punished for their roles.
  • Abraham Lincoln dies

  • John Wilkes Booth is killed

    On 26 April, Booth was found hiding in a barn in Virginia, which was set on fire. He was then shot and killed.
  • Slavery is abolished in all of the states by the 13th Amendment

  • General Joe Johnston surrenders

  • Juneteenth

    Major General Gordon Granger, commanding troops in Galveston, Texas, proclaims that "the people are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation by the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free."
  • Birth of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

  • Assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

    Assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
    Dr. King was shot in Memphis, Tennessee.
  • Changes to the law in New York and Rhode Island

    A New York slave code attempts to deter slaves from escaping to Canada, by declaring that slaves that were caught 40 miles north of Albany would be executed based upon the oath of two credible witnesses. Blacks outnumbered whites by 10,500 to 6,250 in South Carolina. Slavery is legalized in Rhode Island.