Angela, brought to Virginia 1619

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Preparing to leave African shores
Preparing to leave African shores
photo 1607. A Nation Takes Root

Slaves on board ship
Slaves on board ship
photo 1607. A Nation Takes Root
Because so many Africans in 17th-century Virginia came from the same region, early arrivals may have recognized some of those who came later and maintained shared identities. Among them were skilled craftsmen and farmers whose influence on the English is clear from the governor’s order that crops be planted in 1648 “on the advice of our Negroes.”

By the 1650s there were free people of color in the colony, but most did not do as well economically as free white Virginians. Although legal discrimination was evident by the late 17th century, Africans, such as Anthony Johnson, did prosper in Virginia. He owned land in Northampton County, had one servant, and owned one slave.

Packing a hogshead of tobacco
Packing a hogshead of tobacco
photo 1607. A Nation Takes Root

The first law recognizing the existence of slavery in Virginia was passed in 1661, and a law making it hereditary was passed the next year. As landowners created laws to control the labor they needed, institutionalized slavery gradually evolved from these laws and a “slave code” was produced by the General Assembly in 1705.

angela
Angela

Few records exist to shed light on the lives of the first Africans in Virginia — either before or after their arrival; however, there is some historical information about one of them — a young woman called “Angela” who came on the Treasurer in 1619. The Muster Roll of 1625 reveals that Angela was still in Virginia — a servant in the household of Captain William Peirce.


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