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The Beginnings of Slavery in America

I can’t remember ever distinctly learning when the first Africans arrived in America. I learned about Columbus (if you can even call it that), then colonialism and the Thirteen Colonies, then the American Revolution and then the Civil War. The specific details of when and how slavery came to what would become the United States was never directly taught, or at least not at my tiny K-8 school.

Thanks to Smith’s article “Point Comfort: where slavery in America began 400 years ago,” I can now say that I know when slavery started in the Americas. Twenty captives (not willing participants) arrived on the shores of Virginia in late August of 1619. As the title of this article points out, that is (now more than) 400 years ago. That is roughly 127 years after Columbus landed in the Bahamas, about twelve years after the founding of the Thirteen Colonies, 156 years before the American Revolution and 246 years before slavery would be abolished in the United States. 

In school, you learn about these major events, but you don’t learn about every group of people they affected. You don’t get the full story. It was a dark and violent world back then, and it still is today, it just presents itself differently. Smith’s article shows how understanding the beginning of this especially dark time in our history has helped people connect better with their ancestors, and has inspired people to dig deeper into the foundations our country was built on.  Knowing all the details one possibly can does not justify what happened in the past, but it helps garner respect and a willingness to not let the woes of the past repeat themselves.

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  1. Christina Glynn Christina Glynn

    I completely agree, especially with the point that schools don’t explain the full story of the history of America. I also went to a tiny k-8 school which tried to give the image that they were teaching us the full story by dedicating certain days to learn about slavery and the history of our country. Even though we were young, the negative sides of the stories and the details were often avoided.

  2. Kayla O'Connell Kayla O'Connell

    I too never knew when slavery first began. Throughout my K-12 experience, those details were often left out from the story. We also never learned about the struggles that black individuals experienced as a result of not knowing their ancestors. I never received the full portrait of the story and I wish I learned this information sooner.

  3. William Coben William Coben

    I find it fascinating that the American schooling system is so negligent about the teachings of the history’s true past and beginning, especially in today’s political climate where BLM seems to be the current driving factor for social justice and change in our country. It is reasonable to believe that actor like AOC and Kamala Harris would want to change the education system in a way that properly reflects history, so I am curious about why that hasn’t happened thus far in America.

  4. Morgan Crocker Morgan Crocker

    I agree that schools have neglected teaching students about the harsh truth about how slavery came to America, and neglected teaching students about just African history. I also agree that it was a dark and violent world back then that has only slightly gotten better. Knowing all the details about what happened in the past does help us not let history repeat itself.

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