|Black History Timeline to 1700
Invariably, all of our histories begin in Africa with the origins of humanity, and this timeline charts and highlights
the progress of African people and offers a glimpse into significant events helping to put their evolution in
perspective. – MH
ca. 4.2 million years ago
Australopithecus anamensis, the first known hominid ancestor of modern humans, emerges on the shores of
what is now Lake Rudolf in East Africa.
Ca. 3.2 million years ago
The 1974 discovery of the nearly complete hominid skeleton of “Lucy” (Australopithecus afarensis), near what is
now Hadar, Ethiopia, establishes the origin of human history in this region of East Africa. In 2006, a 3.3-million-
year-old fossilized hominid toddler was uncovered in the same region, now known to scientists as the “Cradle of
Ca. 1.8 million years ago
Homo erectus emerges in East Africa.
Ca. 100,000 years ago
Homo sapiens (anatomically modern humans) emerge in East Africa and soon after begin migrating to Asia and
Europe. DNA mapping now indicates that the entire world’s population evolved from this first group of humans.
Ca. 1200 BCE
Olmec civilization emerges in Mexico. The most famous Olmec ruins are six heads, each measuring eight to nine
feet in height, weighing twenty to forty tons and displaying distinctly Negroid features.
Ca. 400 BCE
Iron-working Bantu farmers in what is present-day Nigeria begin a multi-century migration that will spread their
language and culture throughout what is now sub-Saharan Africa.
Mohammad marches from Mecca to Medina, initiating the Muslim faith.
Arab traders establish the first Islamic cities on the east coach of Africa.
Arabs conquer and control all of North Africa and most of the Iberian Peninsula (present-day Spain and
Muslim forces are defeated by Frankish and Burgundian forces at the Battle of Tours in central France. They
retreat to the Iberian Peninsula, which they occupy for seven hundred years.
Norman navigators reach the mouth of the Senegal River. They are the first known Europeans to reach sub-
By this date, a flourishing slave trade exists in the Mediterranean World. Most of the slaving countries are Italian
principalities, such as Florence and Venice. Most of those enslaved are Greeks and Eastern Europeans.
Between 1414 and 1423, ten thousand Eastern European slaves are sold in Venice alone.
The Portuguese establish trading outposts along the West African coast.
Antam Goncalvez of Portugal captures Africans in what is now Senegal, initiating direct European involvement in
the African slave trade.
Lanzarote de Freitas, a tax collector from the Portuguese town of Lagos, forms a company to trade in African
slaves. His company captures 235 Africans, who are brought to Lagos and sold. This the first large group of
slaves brought to the Iberian Peninsula by Portuguese Christians.
Sugar plantations established by the Portuguese on the Madeira Islands use African slaves exclusively for the
Portuguese traders bring slaves to Seville in Spain for the first time.
By this point, small vineyards and sugar plantations have emerged around Naples and on the island of Sicily,
with Africans as the primary enslaved people providing the labor on these estates.
Portuguese establish a trading post at Elmina on the coast of Ghana.
Spain, under the dual monarchs Ferdinand II and Isabella, capture Grenada and defeat the last Muslim forces
on the Iberian Peninsula. Following that victory, the Spanish monarchs require all Jews and Muslims to convert
to Christianity or be exiled.
Christopher Columbus makes his first voyage to the New World, opening a vast new empire for plantations
The first Africans arrive in Hispaniola with Christopher Columbus. They are free persons.
Columbus returns to Spain with 30 native American slaves.
Spanish kind Ferdinand II, allows the introduction of enslaved Africans into Spain’s American colonies.
The first slaves are taken from Africa to Spanish colonies in the New World.
Sugarcane is introduced by the Spanish into Santo Domingo (the Domninican Republic).
Thirty Africans accompany Vasco Nunez de Balboa on his journey to the Pacific Ocean.
Bishop Bartolome de las Casas petitions Spain to allow the importation of twelve enslaved Africans for each
household immigrating to America’s Spanish colonies. De las Casas later regrets his actions and becomes an
opponent of slavery.
King Charles V of Spain grants the first licenses to import enslaved Africans to the Americas.
King Charles V grants Flemish merchant Lorenzo de Gorrevod permission to import up to four thousand African
slaves into New Spain. Soon afterward the first shipload of enslaved Africans directly from Africa arrives in the
West Indies. Prior to this time, Africans were brought first to Europe. From this point thousands of African slaves
are sent to the New World each year.
Hernan Cortes begins his conquest of the Aztec Empire. Black Spaniards are among the conquistadors.
Enslaved Africans are now used as laborers in Puerto Rico, Cuba, and Mexico.
African slaves stage a rebellion in Hispaniola. This is the first slave uprising in the New World.
Spanish colonists led by Lucas Vasquez de Ayllon build the community of San Miguel de Guadalupe in what is
now Georgia. They bring along enslaved Africans, considered to be the first in the present-day United States.
These Africans flee the colony, however, and make their homes with local Indians. After Ayllon’s death, the
remaining Spaniards relocate to Hispaniola.
Esteban, a Moroccan-born Muslim slave, explores what is now the southwestern United States.
Africans serve in the New Mexico expeditions of Francisco Vasquez de Coronado and Hernando de Alarcon.
The Spanish Crown abolishes Indian slavery in its colonial possessions.
The first slaves directly from Africa arrive in the Brazilian city of Salvador.
An expedition to Hispaniola led by John Hawkins, the first English slave trader, sparks English interest in that
activity. Hawkins’ travels also call attention to Sierra Leone.
African farmers and artisans accompany Pedro Menendez de Aviles on the expedition that establishes the
community of San Augustin (St. Augustine, Florida).
New Spain’s (Colonial Mexico) population includes 20,569 blacks and 2,439 mulattoes (people of combined
African, European, and Native American ancestry).
Professor Bartolome de Albornoz of the University of Mexico writes against the enslavement and sale of Africans.
The Dutch enter the slave trade.
The French enter the slave trade.
By Spanish law, mulattoes, convicts, and “idle” Africans may be shipped to Latin America and forced to work in
the mines there.
Jamestown is founded in Virginia.
Fugitive slaves in Mexico, led by Gaspar Yanga, sign a truce with Spanish colonial authorities and obtain their
freedom and a town in Veracruz of their own – San Lorenzo de los Negros, later re-named Yanga.
The town of San Lorenzo de los Negros receives a charter from Spanish colonial officials in Mexico and
becomes the first officially recognized free settlement for blacks in the New World.
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.
The Pilgrims reach New England.
The first African American child born free in the English colonies, William Tucker, is baptized in Virginia.
The first enslaved Africans arrive in the Dutch Colony of New Amsterdam (New York City).
New Spain’s (Colonial Mexico) population includes 35,089 blacks and 116,529 mulattoes.
Anthony Johnson, a free African American, imports several enslaved Africans and is given a grant of land on
Virginia’s Pungoteague River.
Virginia reverses the presumption of English law that the child follows the status of the father, and enacts a law
that makes the free or enslaved status of children dependent on the status of the mother.
In Virginia, the enslaved African’s status is clearly differentiated from the indentured servant’s status for the first
time when colonial laws decree that enslavement is for life and the condition is transferred to the children
through the mother. The terms “black” and “slave” become synonymous, and enslaved Africans are subject to
harsher and more brutal control than other laborers.
Maryland establishes slavery for life for persons of African ancestry.
New York and New Jersey also recognize the legality of slavery.
King Charles II of England charters the Royal African Company, which dominates the slave trade to British North
America for the next half century.
An estimated 100,000 Africans are enslaved in the West Indies and another 5,000 are in British North America.
A new slave code in Virginia prohibits weapons for slaves, requires passes beyond the limits of the plantation,
and forbids self-defense by any African Americans against any European American.
Quakers in Germantown, Pa., denounce slavery in the first recorded formal protest in North America against the
enslavement of Africans.
By this year, all English colonies in America have enslaved Africans.
The introduction of rice into the Carolina colony, ironically from West Africa, increases the need for labor for
emerging plantations. This adds another factor to the economic justification and rationalization for expanding the
A census reports more than 27,000 enslaved people, mostly Africans, in the English colonies in North America.
The vast majority of these bonds-people live in the Southern colonies.
Massachusetts Chief Justice Samuel Sewall publishes "The Selling of Joseph," a book that advances both the
economic and moral reasons for the abolition of the trade in enslaved Africans.
Source: America I Am, Black Facts: The Timelines of African American History, 1601-2008, by Quintard Taylor
|Texas Black History Preservation Project