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Modern Voices
Peter Wood on the Africans' arrival in 1619
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Q: For the first Africans who come in 1619, do they come as slaves or do they come into a system that is somewhere in between?
Peter Wood

A: The first people who come to Jamestown from Africa in a sense come as slaves. We're not sure whether they had been captured off a slave ship in the Caribbean or whether they'd been transported directly, but they had already been pulled into the transatlantic system of slavery which had been going on for a long time. We in English-speaking America sometimes think of them as the first slaves in Jamestown in 1619. But there had been many Africans in North America before that, traveling with the Spanish explorers and throughout the southeast and southwest. But this is different -- to have these people arrive aboard a slave ship and be sold to as workers in Jamestown.
Peter Wood
Professor of History
Duke University

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