The African Americans

Search for Truth and Knowledge

By Dr. Leonard Jeffries, Jr.

Part Thirteen: First African Immigration Before the Mayflower

African Forced Migration Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade

American history is full of irony and contradiction. In many ways the early American colonies were places of refuge for oppressed European peoples. After the Virginia colony was founded in 1607 with a charter grant from the King of England, the Pilgrims landed in Massachusetts in 1620 and established a colony that became a haven for those who had simple Protestant Puritan religious beliefs. They drafted and adopted the "Mayflower Compact," which was their covenant of self-government, and charter of religious liberty. Several other colonies were founded and became havens of refuge for oppressed and persecuted religious groups from Europe.

George Colvert, the first Lord Baltimore, received a royal proprietary charter for the Maryland Colony which immediately became a refuge for Catholic immigrants. Roger Williams organized the Rhode Island colony as a haven for religious freedom. When William Penn was awarded a royal proprietary charter for Pennsylvania, he established some of the earliest American laws, permitting freedom of conscience and religious worship. He was a Quaker and believed in religious tolerance. Some American colonies, however, were founded and organized for economic reasons like the first colony in Virginia. In these areas, the bulk of the immigrants were European indentured servants who were bound by a fixed term contract of several years of labor.

First African Immigrants

It is ironic that the first Africans to permanently settle in British North America were captives from a Dutch man-of-war or naval ship who were sold to the Jamestown, Virginia colony in 1619. They arrived "Before the Mayflower" and became indentured servants along with other white migrants from Europe. The Africans were sold into the contract labor system of indentured servitude like most white migrants because a legalized system of slavery had not yet been organized in the new British colonies. A similar process occurred in the new Dutch Colony of New Amsterdam on Manhattan Island, which was founded in the 1620's by the Dutch West India Company and later became New York after the British victory in the Anglo-Dutch wars (1660–64).

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