Slavery in the United States

Slavery in the United States was the legal institution of human chattel enslavement, primarily of Africans and African Americans, that existed in the United States of America from the beginning of the nation in 1776 until passage of the Thirteenth Amendment in 1865. Slavery had been practiced in British America from early colonial days, and was legal in all thirteen colonies at the time of the Declaration of Independence in 1776. Under the law, an enslaved person was treated as property and could be bought, sold, or given away. Slavery lasted in about half of U.S. states until 1865. As an economic system, slavery was largely replaced by sharecropping and convict leasing.
On August 28, 1565, St. Augustine, Florida was founded by the Spanish conquistador Don Pedro Menendez de Aviles and he brought three enslaved Africans with him. During the 16th and 17th centuries, St. Augustine was the hub of the trade in enslaved people in Spanish colonial Florida and the first permanent settlement in the continental United States to include enslaved Africans.
Shortly after the Elizabeth Key trial and similar challenges, in 1662 the Virginia royal colony approved a law adopting the principle of partus sequitur ventrem (called partus, for short), stating that any children born in the colony would take the status of the mother. A child of an enslaved mother would be born into slavery, regardless if the father were a freeborn Englishman or Christian. This was a reversal of common law practice in England, which ruled that children of English subjects took the status of the father. The change institutionalized the skewed power relationships between those who enslaved people and enslaved women, freed white men from the legal responsibility to acknowledge or financially support their mixed-race children, and somewhat confined the open scandal of mixed-race children and miscegenation to within the slave quarters.
The invention of the cotton gin in 1793 enabled the cultivation of short-staple cotton in a wide variety of mainland areas, leading to the development of large areas of the Deep South as cotton country in the 19th century. Rice cultivation and tobacco were very labor-intensive. In 1720, about 65% of South Carolina's population was enslaved. Planters (defined by historians in the Upper South as those who held 20 enslaved people or more) used enslaved workers to cultivate commodity crops. They also worked in the artisanal trades on large plantations and in many southern port cities. Backwoods subsistence farmers, the later wave of settlers in the 18th century who settled along the Appalachian Mountains and backcountry, seldom held enslaved people.
At the same time, the British were transporting Loyalists and their slaves, primarily to the Caribbean, but some to Nova Scotia. For example, over 5,000 enslaved Africans owned by Loyalists were transported in 1782 with their owners from Savannah to Jamaica and St. Augustine, Florida (then controlled by Britain). Similarly, over half of the black people evacuated in 1782 from Charleston by the British to the West Indies and Florida were slaves owned by white Loyalists.
Furthermore, females of breeding age were supposed to be kept pregnant, producing more slaves to sell. The variations in skin color found in the United States make it obvious how often black women were impregnated by whites. For example, in the 1850 Census, 75.4% of "free negros" in Florida were described as mulattos, of mixed race. Nevertheless, it is only very recently, with DNA studies, that any sort of reliable number can be provided, and the research has only begun. Light-skinned girls, who contrasted with the darker field workers, were preferred.
This struggle took place amid strong support for slavery among white Southerners, who profited greatly from the system of enslaved labor. But slavery was entwined with the national economy; for instance, the banking, shipping, and manufacturing industries of New York City all had strong economic interests in slavery, as did similar industries in other major port cities in the North. The northern textile mills in New York and New England processed Southern cotton and manufactured clothes to outfit slaves. By 1822 half of New York City's exports were related to cotton.