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For slavery in the colonial period, see Slavery in the colonial United States.For modern-day slavery, see Human trafficking in the United States.

During and immediately following the Revolutionary War, abolitionist laws were passed in most Northern states and a movement developed to abolish slavery.Most of these states had a higher proportion of free labor than in the South and economies based on different industries.Congress during the Jefferson administration prohibited the importation of slaves, effective in 1808, but illegal smuggling took place.Domestic slave trading, however, continued at a rapid pace, driven by labor demands from the development of cotton plantations in the Deep South.The first 19 or so Africans to reach the English colonies arrived in Jamestown, Virginia in 1619, brought by Dutch traders who had seized them from a captured Spanish slave ship.

The Spanish usually baptized slaves in Africa before embarking them.By the time of the American Revolution (1775–83), the status of slave had been institutionalized as a racial caste associated with African ancestry.When the United States Constitution was ratified (1789), a relatively small number of free people of color were among the voting citizens (male, property owners).When Abraham Lincoln won the 1860 election on a platform of halting the expansion of slavery, seven states broke away to form the Confederacy.The first six states to secede held the greatest number of slaves in the South.The planters in the South found that the major problem with indentured servants was that many left after several years, just when they had become skilled and the most valuable workers.