Look closely and notice the caption on this artist’s work, “Richmond Virginia. Where Men and Women are Sold like Cattle.” The enslavement of Africans in America began in Virginia with the first group of captives brought to Jamestown, Virginia in 1619. Over time the system of permanent bondage developed eventually spreading throughout the original colonies and ultimately into the new United States of America after 1781.
By the mid 19th century, the national debate on the question of slavery was a heated one. During the American Revolution, many enslaved Africans contributed to both sides with the hope of obtaining personal liberty from the victors. Sadly, most were disappointed.
As Americans began to settle further west in new lands, the moral and legal question of slavery followed them. By the time of the outbreak of Civil War in 1861, the issue was swept into the larger debate of federal versus state governance.