Slavery 1619 Project – Virginia’s First Slaves: American Indians?

The New York Times Sunday magazine dated August 18 was devoted to the Times’ “1619 Project” – a look at slavery in America. This year 2019 is the 400th anniversary since the first Africans were enslaved in America when 20+ Africans were landed at the Jamestown Virginia English colony.

But a little known fact of American history and law is the ubiquitous physical and legal enslavement of Indian peoples over much of what is now the United States during colonial and early American times. In the Virginia colony, my research shows that the first slaves of the English colonists were local Indian peoples and then large numbers of Indians that were captured elsewhere and transported to Virginia to serve as slaves. Much of this activity appears to have occurred before Virginian planters and traders began importing Africans to be enslaved. Complicating this history is that several Indian nations and many individual Indians actively participated with the English in enslaving Indians from other tribes and transporting them to Virginia and to other American colonies.

I was asked to write a book chapter on the subject of American Indian slavery during European colonial times. You can get a free copy of the first draft of my book chapter from the Social Science Research Network:

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