Traditionalist histories claim that slavery started in what is now the United States on or about August 20, 1619, when a British ship appeared in Chesapeake Bay and traded for food "20 and odd" Africans seized from a Portuguese slave ship.
The White Lion, a British-owned privateer operating under a Dutch flag, "sold" the Angolans to planters of Viriginia's earliest tobacco fields at what is now Hampton, Virginia, less than forty miles from the Jamestown settllement.
However, that event 400 years ago was not the the first appearance of African slaves in today's U.S. As noted in Esteban: The African Slave Who Explored Amerca," a number of African slaves revolted in 1526 when taken to South Carolina, escaping into the wilderness and presumably joining the area's Indian tribes, followed by Esteban and other African and Caribbean slaves taken to Florida by the Narvaez invasion force in 1528 -- both nearly a century before enslaved Angolans were taken to Virginia in 1619. Other African slaves were taken to Arizona and New Mexico by Spanish conquistadors in 1540 and on expeditions afterward throughout what is now the American Southwest. Africans had been already enslaved on the Caribbean islands for 112 years, since at least 1507.
In addition, although rarely mentioned even in traditionalist histories, the English colonists were enslaving and selling American Indians for years before 1619.
Regardless, the sale of Africans in 1619 is being commemorated this year as the 400th anniversary of African-American history and the start of slavery in the U.S. Some historians believe the 1619 Africans were used at first as indentured servents, forced to work without pay for a number of years. Others contend that those unfortunates were enslaved, working without pay for a lifetime. Either way, they were not free.