Spanish settlers bring slaves to their colony of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic in the Caribbean Islands.
The first African slaves arrive on the North American mainland at the Spanish colony of Saint Augustine.
A Dutch pirate ship arrives at Jamestown, Virginia, bearing slaves taken from a Portuguese slave ship and exchanges the slaves for provisions.
Samuel Seawell, a jurist and printer in Massachusetts, publishes The Selling of Joseph, the first anti-slavery tract in North America.
Virginia lawmakers entitle slaveholders with the right to bequeath slaves to their heirs and refers to slaves as real estate. The same law give owners the right to ‘kill and destroy’ runaways.
Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon survey the Pennsylvania-Maryland boundary that would become the line of division between free states and slave states, more commonly known as the Mason-Dixon Line.
The first abolition society forms in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
The Continental Congress, in the Declaration of Independence, asserts ‘that these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be, Free and Independent States.’
Pennsylvania passes the Act for the Gradual Abolition of Slavery. All children born of slaves after the passage of the act are to be freed when they reach the age of twenty-eight years.
The Fugitive Slave Law enforces the rights of slaveholders to pursue and capture fugitive slaves across state lines, including free states and territories where slavery has been outlawed.
The invention of the cotton gin by Eli Whitney makes cultivation of short-staple cotton more viable.
A slave named Gabriel and thirty others slaves in Richmond, Virginia conspire to revolt in a bid to negotiate their freedom. The conspiracy is betrayed before it can be implemented, but the possibility of a slave revolts sparks fear in Southerners.
The United States bans the importation of slaves from Africa. Slave traders turn to smuggling to continue importation illegally.
The Missouri Compromise is passed, determining 36 degrees 30 minutes latitude as the boundary that divides free and slave states. Missouri is the exception and enters the Union as a slave state.
22 August: A slave and lay minister named Nat Turner from Southampton County, Virginia, leads a revolt through the countryside killing sixty whites.
Margaretta Forten organizes the Female Anti-Slavery Society in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Britain passes an Emancipation Act that frees slaves and outlaws the slave trade.
Joseph Cinque leads fifty-three Africans in a revolt on board the Amistad while the ship is anchored off Cuba.
Former slave Frederick Douglass publishes his first autobiography.
The United States Congress enacts a harsher Fugitive Slave Law in exchange for allowing California to enter the Union as a free state. Changes to the law also abolish the slave trade within the District of Columbia, but not slavery itself.
Abolitionist and author Harriet Beecher Stowe publishes Uncle Tom’s Cabin, a fictional tale about fugitive slaves pursued by a harsh master. The book incites abolitionists and slaveholders alike.
The Kansas-Nebraska Act gives new territories entering the Union the right to decide for themselves to be free or slave states. Passage of the act sets aside the Missouri Compromise.
The United States Supreme Court rules against slave Dred Scott when he sues his master for his freedom, citing that slaves cannot sue because they are not citizens. It becomes known as the ‘Dred Scott decision’.
Kansas abolitionist John Brown leads a raid on the United States armory at Harper’s Ferry, Virginia in an effort to spark a slave revolution in the South, but is foiled.
November: Abraham Lincoln of Illinois is elected president of the United States. He is the first republican to be elected to the office.
22 December: The State of South Carolina is the first to secede from the Union.
April: Confederate forces attack Federal forces occupying Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor, South Carolina. Federal forces eventually surrender.
April: Slaves within the District of Columbia are set free when President Lincoln signs a bill intended to provide funding for colonization of freed slaves.
May: The United States bans slavery in all United States territories. African-Americans are allowed to enlist in the United States military.
31 January: The Emancipation Proclamation takes effect, abolishing slavery in the Confederate States.
April: Union general, Ulysses S. Grant, and Confederate general, Robert E. Lee, meet at Appomattox Courthouse, Virginia to negotiate the terms of surrender.
President Abraham Lincoln is assassinated by actor and secessionist John Wilkes Booth at Ford’s Theatre in Washington DC.
December: The Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States is ratified, and slavery is officially outlawed in the United States.