Solved: 400-year mystery of first African slaves in N AmericaIn the Washington Post this weekend, a fascinating tale of historic sleuthing for the origins of the "20 and odd," the very first African slaves to enter Virginia in the 1600s. Until now, it was believed that they came to the continent by way of a Dutch warship from the West Indies....
Now, new scholarship and transatlantic detective work have solved the puzzle of who they were and where their forced journey across the Atlantic Ocean began.Link. Image: Flyer for an auction of "fine healthy negroes," which advertises the fact that "the utmost care has already been taken, and shall be continued, to keep them free from the least danger of being infected with the SMALL-POX, no boat having been on board, and all contact with the people of Charles-town having been prevented." Sounds like smallpox was big in "Charles-town" at the time. Via Library of Congress. (Thanks, Ned Sublette)
The slaves were herded onto a Portuguese slave ship in Angola, in Southwest Africa. The ship was seized by British pirates on the high seas -- not brought to Virginia after a period of time in the Caribbean. The slaves represented one ethnic group, not many, as historians first believed.
Reader comment: Anonymous says,
Slaves were present in North America a bit earlier than the 1600s, but south of the current U.S. border. This site describes results from a recent archaeological project in Campeche, Mexico that uncovered the remains of African slaves who were brought to Mexico during the 1500s. They were identified by the chemical composition of their teeth which reflects the geology of the area where you grow up, which in their case was West Africa.
posted by Xeni Jardin