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Explore Your African American Heritage

While African American genealogy can bring some real challenges, the rewards make it well worth the effort. Our experts share tips on specific records research, how to trace enslaved ancestors, where to find resources and more.

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African American Genealogy Cheat Sheet

The charts, tips, timeline, DNA answers, websites and books will help you find enslaved ancestors, freedmen, free blacks, and their descendants in various records.

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Timeline of Slavery in the US

1619–1793

1619
First African slaves arrive in Jamestown on the Dutch ship White Lion
1654
John Casor becomes the first legally recognized slave in the United States
1705
Virginia declares all negro, mulatto and Indian slaves should be held as real estate
1774
Rhode Island bans the importation of slaves
1775
The Society for the Relief of Free Negroes Unlawfully Held in Bondage (aka Pennsylvania Society) forms
1783
Slavery ends in Massachusetts

1800–1822

1800
A slave named Gabriel leads a rebellion in Virginia
1808
United States bans importation of slaves
1816
American Colonization Society is established in Washington, DC
1822
Denmark Vesey is hanged for planning a slave rebellion in Charleston, SC

1831–1848

1831
Nat Turner leads a slave rebellion in Southampton County, VA
1831
William Lloyd Garrison founds the abolitionist newspaper The Liberator
1845
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave is published
1848
Connecticut abolishes slavery
1848
Slavery is abolished in French colonies

1850–1866

1850
Fugitive slave laws require runaway slaves in free states to be returned to their owners
1852
Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe is published
1857
New Hampshire abolishes slavery
1857
US Supreme Court rules that Dred Scott can’t sue for his freedom
1859
John Brown raids
Harpers Ferry, WV
1863
Emancipation Proclamation takes effect
1865
13th Amendment prohibits slavery in the United States
1866
Final issue of The Liberator is published

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