In late August 1619, a ship arrived in Point Comfort, near the city of Jamestown, in the British colony of Virginia.
Onboard were “twenty and odd” Africans, who were traded for “foodstuffs”.
They were considered to be the first Africans forced into servitude in what would become the United States of America.
How the slave trade exploded in the 1600s
The transatlantic slave trade began in the late 15th century, with Portuguese ships transporting enslaved Africans to work in sugar plantations in Cape Verde and Madeira. Soon after, slaves were brought to Brazil by the Portuguese and to the Caribbean by Spanish conquistadors.
British, French and Dutch mariners quickly joined in.
It is believed that a few hundred thousand Africans were forced into slavery in the Americas before 1600. But that figure soon exploded as sugar and tobacco plantations grew.
In Virginia, for example, the labour force had primarily consisted of white indentured servants before the 1619 arrival in Point Comfort. But, by the 1690s, there were four times as many enslaved Africans as white servants.
Overall, between 10 to 12 million enslaved Africans were forced to make the transatlantic voyage. Britain and Portugal were the most prolific slavers, accounting for 70% of all Africans taken to the Americas.