This Day in Black History: Aug. 20, 1619

The first African slaves arrive in Jamestown, Virginia on Aug. 20, 1619.

(Photo: Courtesy of The Library of Virginia)

A Dutch ship carrying 20 Africans arrived in Jamestown, Virginia, on Aug. 20, 1619, a voyage that would mark the beginning of slavery in the American colonies. The number of slaves continued to grow between the 17th and 18th centuries, as slave labor was used to help fuel the growing tobacco and cotton industries in the Southern states. At the end of the Civil War in 1865, some five million slaves were set free. However, racial inequalities and violence toward newly freed slaves would persist in the country throughout the 1860s and 1870s. Some 100 years later, African-American leaders of the civil rights movement used mass protests to persuade lawmakers to enact landmark pieces of legislation, including the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which would protect equal rights for racial minorities.

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(Photo: Courtesy of The Library of Virginia)

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