From the landing of Columbus in the Americas, through today, black women have contributed to American history and have been affected by it. In this timeline, you'll find events arranged by year. Use the index below to skip to a time period you're looking for.
[1492-1699] [1700-1799] [1800-1829] [1830-1839] [1840-1849] [1850-1859] [1860-1863] [1864-1869] [1870-1879] [1880-1889] [1890-1899] [1900-1909] [1910-1919] [1920-1929] [1930-1939] [1940-1949] [1950-1959] [1960-1969] [1970-1979] [1980-1989] [1990-1999] [2000-] [What's Included]
Women and African American History: 1492-1699
• Columbus discovered America, from the perspective of Europeans. Queen Isabella of Spain declared all indigenous peoples her subjects, in the lands claimed by Columbus for Spain, preventing the Spanish conquerors from enslaving the Native Americans. The Spanish thus looked elsewhere for the labor they needed to take advantage of the New World's economic opportunities.
• Spain permitted African slaves to be sent to the Americas
• first African slaves arrived in Hispaniola
• Isabel de Olvero, part of the Juan Guerra de Pesa Expedition, helped to colonize what has since become New Mexico
• (August 20) 20 men and women from Africa arrived on a slave ship and were sold in the first North American slave auction -- by British and international custom, Africans could be held in servitude for life, though white Christian indentured servants could only be held for a limited term
• Anthony Johnson, son of an African mother, arrived in Virginia. He lived with his wife, Mary Johnson, in Accomack on Virginia's Eastern Shore, the first free Negroes in Virginia (Anthony taking his last name from his original master). Anthony and Mary Johnson eventually founded the first free black community in North America, and themselves held servants "for life."
• Virginia census lists 23 "Negroes" including some women; ten have no names listed and the rest only first names, likely indicating lifetime servitude -- none of the women are listed as married
• Virginia census lists twelve black men and eleven black women; most have no names and do not have the dates of arrival that most white servants in the census have listed -- only one of the blacks has a full listing
• Massachusetts legalized slavery, specifying that a child inherited its status from the mother, rather than the father, reversing English common law
• Elizabeth Key, whose mother was a slave and father was a white planter, sued for her freedom, claiming her father's free status and her baptism as grounds -- and the courts upheld her claim
• Virginia passed a law stating that baptism could not free "slaves by birth"
• Virginia House of Burgesses passed a law that a child's status followed the mother's, if the mother was not white, contrary to English common law in which the father's status determined the child's
• Maryland passed a law under which free white women would lose their freedom if they married a black slave, and under which the children of white women and black men became slaves
• Maryland became the first of the future states to pass a law making it illegal for free English women to marry "Negro slaves"
• Virginia legislature declared that free black women were to be taxed, but not white women servants or other white women; that "negro women, though permitted to enjoy their freedome" could not have the rights of "the English."
• Virginia passed a law that "Negroes" or Indians, even those free and baptized, could not purchase any Christians, but could purchase "any of their owne nation [=race]" (i.e. free Africans could buy Africans and Indians could buy Indians)
• Aphra Behn (1640-1689, England) published the anti-slavery Oroonoka, or the History of the Royal Slave, first novel in English by a woman