Exploration and Settlement


When did the first Africans arrive in the British colonies of North America?

In 1619 a Dutch ship carrying 20 Africans landed at Jamestown, Virginia. They were put to work as servants, not as slaves. Though they had fewer rights than their white counterparts, they were able to gain their freedom and acquire property, which prompted the development of a small class of “free Negroes” in colonial Virginia. For example, there is record of an Anthony Johnson arriving in Virginia in 1621 as a servant. He was freed one year later, and about thirty years after that he imported five servants himself, receiving from Virginia 250 acres of land for so doing.


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