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John Rolfe, one of the first settlers in Virginia, described the arrival of the first Africans in what is now the United States of America. They came by accident. A Dutch ship seeking supplies visited the new English colony and exchanged ‘19 and odd Negroes’ for food. Historians have argued ever since about the status of these first Africans in North America. Virtually all are agreed that de facto slavery did not emerge until 1640 and this was not codified into law to become de jure slavery until 1660. From then on, Africans in the British colonies were overwhelmingly classified as property and, even after American independence, nine out of ten were held as slaves by 1860 (Jordan, 1968).

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© 1997 William T. Martin Riches

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Riches, W.T.M. (1997). Introduction. In: The Civil Rights Movement. Studies in Contemporary History. Palgrave, London.

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  • Publisher Name: Palgrave, London

  • Print ISBN: 978-0-333-61100-5

  • Online ISBN: 978-1-349-25880-2

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