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1619 marks the first arrival of slaves to what would eventually become the United States. They arrived in Virginia, as a new solution to replace the indentured servants, whose promised freedom and land was creating a permanent underclass.
Jamestown was founded in 1607 by the London Company, established as a utopian community, where freed Spanish slaves, Indians, and indigent English could work the land, growing produce and extracting minerals for the benefit of England. Unfortunately, it had nearly been obliterated twice by the natives before it was ten years old, resulting in a period of martial law. Political and economic conditions had improved by 1619; that year the London Company installed a new governor, Sir George Yeadley, and established a representative body known as the House of Burgesses. Tobacco had been introduced 2 years earlier by John Rolfe; 1619 proved to be a bumper crop year, and began a decade long boom in production; Jamestown transformed into an exchange post where colonists could purchase luxuries; silk, alcohol, and mail order brides from England were in high demand. The first act of the House of Burgesses was to limit “excess in apparel” and limit drunkeness. That year, 1200 colonists arrived, including a handful of Africans as slaves, although at this time there were Black colonists who owned their own land and could vote. The conflicting institutions of slavery, with the importation of Africans, and freedom, in the establishment of the House of Burgesses, established a paradox that year that determined the history of Virginia and the United States.
“American Slavery, American Freedom,” Morgan, 1975.
Encyclopedia Britannica, 1911, vol. 28, pg. 122
Two major and one lesser factor combined to shape the history of Virginia in 1619.
First, the positive: Virginia achieved self-rule, establishing the foothold of self-government that would contribute to the American Revolution.
Second, the negative: slavery was formally instituted, staining the American soul to this day.
The third and lesser factor is that a large number of women came to Virginia, helping shift the gender balance and make the colony more viable.
1619 marked the year at Virginia where slavery were codified, marking the first arrival of slaves into the country. Africans came into the country, which was later known to be the present- United States of America, tainting their image.
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