This is a timeline of the history of Africans and their descendants in what is now the United States, from 1565 to the present.

Exploration and Discovery
Mathieu Da Costa

Mathieu Da Costa, a free black explorer, guides the French through parts of Canada and the Lake Champlain region of what is now New York state.

Colonial America

Jamestown is founded in Virginia.

Africans in Colonial America

Jan Rodriquez, a free sailor working for a Dutch fur trading company is assigned to live with and trade among the Native Americans on the island of Manhattan.

Africans in Colonial America

Approximately 20 blacks from a Dutch slaver are purchased as indentured workers for the English settlement of Jamestown. These are the first Africans in the English North American colonies.

Colonial America

The Pilgrims reach New England.

17th Century Black Religion
William Tucker

The first African American child born free in the English colonies, William Tucker, is baptized in Virginia.

Colonial Slavery

The first enslaved Africans arrive in the Dutch Colony of New Amsterdam (now New York City) with the Dutch West India Company. They quickly become the city's first municipal labor force, clearing land of timber, cutting lumber, cultivating crops, and constructing roads and fortifications.

Colonial Slavery

The first enslaved Africans arrive in what is now Connecticut.

Colonial Slavery

Slavery is introduced in Maryland.

Black Education

Dutch minister Everadus Bogardus summons a teacher from Holland to Manhattan Island to provide religious training to Dutch and African children. This is the first example of educational efforts in Colonial North America which are directed toward persons of African descent.

Slave Laws

Massachusetts explicitly permits slavery of Indians, whites, and Negroes in its Body of Liberties. It is the first mainland British colony to legalize slavery.

Black Politics
Mathias De Sousa

Mathias De Sousa, an African indentured servant who came from England with Lord Baltimore, is elected to Maryland's General Assembly.

Slave Laws

Virginia passes a fugitive slave law. Offenders helping runaway slaves are fined in pounds of tobacco. An enslaved person is to be branded with a large R after a second escape attempt.

Slave Laws

The New England Confederation reaches an agreement that makes the signature of a magistrate sufficient evidence to re-enslave a suspected fugitive slave.

Colonial Slavery

Merchant ships from Barbados arrive in Boston where they trade their cargoes of enslaved Africans for sugar and tobacco. The profitability of this exchange encourages the slave trade in New England.


Dutch colonists transfer some of their landholdings in New Amsterdam to their former enslaved Africans as compensation for their support in battles with Native Americans. A condition of the land transfer, however, is the guarantee of a specified amount of food from those lands to their former owners.