Around 1750, the British mainland American colonies had a population of approximately 1.5 million. In addition to settlers from Great Britain, a steady stream of German immigrants began to arrive in the late 1600s and reached its peak between 1749 and 1754, when more than 5,000 Germans arrived annually. Each year 3,500 black captives arrived from Africa or the Caribbean. Nearly 1 in 5 Americans, or 300,000 people, were enslaved. Poverty in Northern Ireland forced a massive flight of Scots-Irish to the colonies.
The majority of white colonists resided in the North, but the majority of black people lived in the South, driving agricultural economies based on tobacco in Virginia and Maryland and on rice along the coasts of South Carolina and Georgia.
Over the next few decades, some colonists began to agitate for their independence from English rule. This led to the American Revolution, with its ethos of freedom and equality. The spirit of the age was not lost on African Americans, who became involved in a parallel struggle for their own freedom.
Map "Rollover" Information
1774-1787: Philadelphia is the site of the Continental Congress and the Constitutional Convention.
1780: Pennsylvania declares that all black children born slaves will be freed at age 28.
Virginia and Maryland:
1750: 61% of all British North American slaves -- nearly 145,000 -- live in Virginia and Maryland, working the tobacco fields.
South Carolina and Georgia:
1750: White slaveowners live in cities like Charleston or Savannah; the majority of the 40,000 slaves live on plantations.
1770: Crispus Attucks is killed in the Boston Massacre.
1775: Peter Salem, a black Patriot, fights at Lexington and Concord.
1780: Elizabeth Freeman wins her suit for emancipation under the new state constitution.
1783: The Quock Walker decision ends legalized slavery in Massachusetts.
1775: Lord Dunmore issues a proclamation offering freedom to slaves who escape Patriot masters and join the Loyalists.
1787: The Northwest Ordinance outlaws slavery in the Northwest Territories.
Rhode Island and Connecticut :
1784: Rhode Island and Connecticut pass gradual emancipation legislation.
1783: Black Loyalists gather in New York City for the British evacuation.
1785: New York State outlaws slavery.
Part 2 Narrative:
Map: The Revolutionary Era
Freedom and Bondage in the Colonial Era
Slavery and Religion
Declarations of Independence
The Revolutionary War
The Constitution and The New Nation
Part 1: Narrative | Resource Bank Contents | Teacher's Guide
Africans in America: Home | Resource Bank Index | Search | Shop
WGBH | PBS Online | ©