Henry Louis Gates Jr.: North America's First Black Town?

Roundup: Talking About History

Henry Louis Gates Jr. is the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and the director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African-American Research at Harvard University. He is also the editor-in-chief of The Root.

(The Root) -- Amazing Fact About the Negro No. 8: What was the first black town in North America?

As I mentioned in my column about Juan Garrido, the first documented African to land in what is now the United States, in 1513, as a student I was under the impression that the first Africans arrived in the North America in 1619. That was when 20 or so slaves from Angola ended up at Jamestown, Va. Nothing could be further from the truth. 

As a matter of fact, by 1620, when the Mayflower landed, about 500,000 Africans had already been shipped as slaves to the New World. In other words, those first 20 Africans who arrived in Virginia had a lot of company further to the south, starting in Florida. 

And many of the first African slaves who arrived in the New World before 1620 landed in Mexico, which is a surprise to most of us living in the United States. By 1570, the year that a slave named Gaspar Yanga fled to the mountains near Veracruz to escape slavery, the colony of New Spain (as Mexico was called) "had received an estimated 36,500 Africans," the historian Herman Bennett tells us in his book, Africans in Colonial Mexico, "of which 20,000 had survived."...

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