African Slavery in the Americas Timeline


In 1485, 1488, and May 1486, Christopher Columbus presented a proposal to John II, King of Portugal, requesting that the king provide three ships to sail the Atlantic, in search of a western route to the Orient.

On August 3, 1492, Columbus departed with three ships: the Santa María, the Pinta and the Santa Clara, nicknamed the Niña.

On October 12, 1492, Christopher Columbus arrives in the Americas.

Columbus completed four round-trip voyages between 1492 and 1503.


Las Casas advocated importation of 15,000 African slaves from Africa to relieve the suffering Hispaniola Indians, in the West-Indian colonies, becoming partly responsible for the beginning of the Transatlantic slave trade. Las Casas later retracted his early views on slavery and viewed all forms of slavery as wrong.

In 1619, a slave ship traveling to the West Indies stopped for supplies and sold the first Africans in Virginia.

In 1787, Congress passes the Northwest Ordinance, which prohibits slavery in the Northwest Territory ( Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin). The ordinance would be the basis for the Dred Scott case.

In 1791, slaves began the Haitian Revolution in the French colony of Saint Domingue, on the island of Hispaniola (Haiti).

In 1793, Congress enacts the Fugitive Slave Law. Allowing slaveowners the right to cross state lines to recover fugitive slaves.

About 1803, the Haitian Revolution was the first successful slave revolution transforming an entire society of slaves into a free, self-governing people, establishing Haiti, an independent black state.

January 1, 1808, Congress enacts a prohibition against the importation of slaves.

In 1831, William Lloyd Garrison establishes his abolitionist newspaper, "The Liberator."

In 1831, Nat Turner, begins a revolt, resulting in 57 whites being killed, including his master.

In 1850, Congress enacts the Compromise Act of 1850.

In 1850, Congress grants the first railroad land grant to Illinois, Mississippi and Alabama.

In 1852, Uncle Tom’s Cabin is published by Harriet Beecher Stowe.

In 1857, the Dred Scott case is decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.

In 1858, Abraham Lincoln was nominated for the U.S. Senate, as an Illinois Republican.

In 1859, John Brown, with his sons and followers attack the federal arsenal at Harper’s Ferry, Virginia (West Virginia), becoming martyrs among the anti-slavery movement and abolitionists.

In 1860 Republicans nominate Abraham Lincoln for president.

Beginning in December 1860, southern states start the formation of the Confederate States of America.

In April 1861, the Civil War begins at Fort Sumter

In April 1862 Congress abolishes slavery in the District of Columbia.

In June 1862 Congress bans slavery in the territories.

In July 1862, Lincoln with Congressonal authorization enlists black Americans into the military.

In September 1862, President Lincoln announces the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation.

On January 1, 1863, The Emancipation Proclamation is enacted, freeing the slaves in Confederate states.

In June 1864, the Fugitive Slave Law is abolished.

In November 1864, Lincoln is reelected President.

In January 1865, Congress proposed the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, prohibiting slavery in the United States.

In March 1865, the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands (Freedmen’s Bureau), is created by Congress within the War Department, with more than 900 agents.

In April 1865, the Civil War ends, when Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrenders to General Ulysses S. Grant of the Union Army at Appomattox, Virginia.

In April 1865, President Lincoln is assassinated. Vice President Andrew Johnson succeeds to the presidency.

In December 1865, the 13th Amendment, is ratified, becoming part of the Constitution.

In April 1866, Congress enacts the Civil Rights Act of 1866, granting citizenship to all persons born or naturalized in the United States, guaranteeing equal rights under the law. The statute makes it a federal crime, punishable by fine and imprisonment, to deprive any person of his or her civil rights.

In May 1866, race riots erupt in Memphis Tennessee.

In June 1866, Congress approved the proposed 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

In 1870, Congress by vote, admits representatives of the remaining three confederate states, Mississippi, Texas and Virginia.



Reconstruction (1865–1876)





Entered according to Act of Congress in the year 1872 by Currier & Ives in the Office of the Librarian of Congress at Washington
ROBERT C. DE LARGE, M.C. of South Carolina JEFFERSON H. LONG, M.C. of Georgia
U.S. Senator HIRAM RHODES REVELS, of Mississippi BEN J. S. TURNER, M. C. of Alabama JOSIAH T. WALLS, M.C. of Florida JOSEPH H. RAINY, M. C. of South Carolina R. BROWN ELLIOT, M. C. OF South Carolina
First colored United States Senator and Congressional Representatives during Reconstruction
In the 41st and 42nd Congress of the United States


First Colored (African American) Senator and Representatives during Reconstruction in the 41st and 42nd Congress of the United States. (Left to right) Senator Hiram Rhodes Revels of Mississippi, Representatives Benjamin Turner of Alabama, Robert DeLarge of South Carolina, Josiah Walls of Florida, Jefferson Long of Georgia, Joseph Rainey and Robert B. Elliot of South Carolina (1872).