Follow the timeline to learn more about the history of slavery in the United States, including the arrival of the first African slaves to America, the federal banishment of slave importation, and the abolishment of slavery in the United States.
The first African slaves arrive in Virginia.
Slavery is made illegal in the Northwest Territory. The U.S Constitution states that Congress may not ban the slave trade until 1808.
Eli Whitneys invention of the cotton gin greatly increases the demand for slave labor.
A federal fugitive slave law is enacted, providing for the return slaves who had escaped and crossed state lines.
Gabriel Prosser, an enslaved African American blacksmith, organizes a slave revolt intending to march on Richmond, Virginia. The conspiracy is uncovered, and Prosser and a number of the rebels are hanged. Virginias slave laws are consequently tightened.
Congress bans the importation of slaves from Africa.
The Missouri Compromise bans slavery north of the southern boundary of Missouri.
Denmark Vesey, an enslaved African American carpenter who had purchased his freedom, plans a slave revolt with the intent to lay siege on Charleston, South Carolina. The plot is discovered, and Vesey and 34 coconspirators are hanged.
Nat Turner, an enslaved African American preacher, leads the most significant slave uprising in American history. He and his band of followers launch a short, bloody, rebellion in Southampton County, Virginia. The militia quells the rebellion, and Turner is eventually hanged. As a consequence, Virginia institutes much stricter slave laws.
William Lloyd Garrison begins publishing the Liberator, a weekly paper that advocates the complete abolition of slavery. He becomes one of the most famous figures in the abolitionist movement.
The Wilmot Proviso, introduced by Democratic representative David Wilmot of Pennsylvania, attempts to ban slavery in territory gained in the Mexican War. The proviso is blocked by Southerners, but continues to enflame the debate over slavery.