History of the United States

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1526 Jan 1 - 1776


New England, USA

Slavery in the colonial history of the United States, from 1526 to 1776, developed from complex factors, and researchers have proposed several theories to explain the development of the institution of slavery and of the slave trade. Slavery strongly correlated with the European colonies' demand for labor, especially for the labor-intensive plantation economies of the sugar colonies in the Caribbean and South America, operated by Great Britain, France, Spain, Portugal, and the Dutch Republic.

Slave-ships of the Atlantic slave trade transported captives for slavery from Africa to the Americas. Indigenous people were also enslaved in the North American colonies, but on a smaller scale, and Indian slavery largely ended in the late eighteenth century. Enslavement of Indigenous people did continue to occur in the Southern states until the Emancipation Proclamation issued by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863. Slavery was also used as a punishment for crimes committed by free people. In the colonies, slave status for Africans became hereditary with the adoption and application of civil law into colonial law, which defined the status of children born in the colonies as determined by the mother - known as partus sequitur ventrem. Children born to enslaved women were born enslaved, regardless of paternity. Children born to free women were free, regardless of ethnicity. By the time of the American Revolution, the European colonial powers had embedded chattel slavery for Africans and their descendants throughout the Americas, including the future United States.