Slavery first came to the American colonies in 1619 when 19 slaves were sold to the settlers in Jamestown, Virginia. By 1700 there were an estimated 25,000 slaves in the colonies with most of them concentraded in the south. 25% of the south's population were owned by another, which had a significant impact on the social fabric of the early south.
The south's economy revolved around crops grown on huge tracts of land and on the sale of slaves. Owning slaves and land became a measure of status, where the more slaves you owned the higher your social power level was. People who made their money through trade or manufacturing were second class despite their wealth.
African Americans, both free and slave, were on the bottom of the social pyramid, even those few free blacks who were affluent. Skin color became more and more of a detemining factor in a persons social worth. Lighter skinned slaves were even more valuable than thier darker counterparts.
As the number of slaves rose to eclipse the white population, fears of possible rebellions made whites increasingly strict regarding what slaves could and could not do. Laws were passed to make sure that African Americans espcially in the wake of the 1739 Stono Rebellion in South Carolina.