Originating from Angola, these slaves were stolen from a Portuguese slave ship, then transported to an English warship flying a Dutch flag, and were eventually sold to colonial settlers.
Although slavery had no legal standing in the young colony at the time, these 20 Africans were either kept as indentured servants or enslaved, introducing black chattel slavery into what is now the United States of America.
Little information is known about the first 20, but the concept developed into institutional slavery, rapidly spreading throughout American colonies. By the time Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, those “20 and odd Negroes” had mushroomed to 4 million slaves in America.
Today, there are more than 42 million people in the U.S. who identify as African American.
Celebrate Black History Month
Throughout February, we'll spotlight a different African-American pioneer in the daily Living section Monday through Thursday and Saturday. Go to myAJC.com/black-history-month for more subscriber exclusives on people, places and organizations that have changed the world, and to see videos on the African-American pioneer featured here each day.