Historic Timeline of Slavery and the Underground Railroad
- 1501-African Slaves in the New World
Spanish settlers bring slaves from Africa to Santo Domingo (now the capital of the Dominican Republic).
- 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.
- 1700-First Antislavery Publication
Massachusetts jurist and printer, Samuel Seawell, publishes the first North American antislavery tract, The Selling of Joseph.
- 1705-Slaves as Property
Describing slaves as real estate, Virginia lawmakers allow owners to bequeath their slaves. The same law allows masters to "kill and destroy" runaways.
- 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."
- 1793-Fugitive Slave Act
The United States outlaws any efforts to impede the capture of runaway slaves. (Also see 1850)
- 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'.
- 1834-1838-Slavery in England
England abolishes slavery in its colonies including Jamaica, Barbados, and other West Indian territories.
- 1850-Compromise of 1850
In exchange for California's entering the Union as a free state, northern congressmen accept a harsher Fugitive Slave Act different from the previous one of 1793.
- 1854-Kansas-Nebraska Act
Setting aside the Missouri Compromise of 1820, Congress permits 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.
- 1861-65-United States Civil War
Four years of brutal conflict claim 623,000 lives.
On September 22, Lincoln drafts the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation. The final is issued on January 1, 1863.
- 1863-Emancipation Proclamation
President Abraham Lincoln decrees that all slaves in Rebel territory are free on January 1, 1863. The Proclamation only freed those slaves in states that were in rebellion against the United States. The proclamation did not free slaves in the states that never left the Union.
- 1865-Slavery Abolished
The 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution outlaws slavery