Slavery Timeline

Slavery and Anti-Slavery in the TCI

From 1798 to 1819 the fledgling US Navy was battling slavery and piracy in its own territory, in the Caribbean, and on the high seas. In 1820, when slavery and piracy were determined to be equally unlawful, it was clear that many of the perpetrators of one were also guilty of the other.

USS Brig Perry confronting American slaver Martha 1850

In the Caribbean, the US Navy was attempting to establish law and order and bring both piracy and slavery to an end. More specifically, with regard to Trouvadore, Chippewa, and Onkahye, these three ships were a  manifestation of what was happening on a larger scale.

1798 This begins a decade of peak of importation of slaves into the US, most on US-owned and operated ships. The US begins anti-piracy patrols in the Caribbean due to predation on merchant shipping by French privateers.

1800 U.S. bans its citizens from exporting slaves from lands under its jurisdiction. International slave trade not affected, the number of American ships putting in at Cuba with slaves reaches 600 this year.

1801 First Barbary War. Pirates in the Barbary States attacked US merchant shipping on the high seas and confiscated the ships and took the sailors as slaves.

1807 U.S. bans its citizens from importing slaves into its territories and bans citizens from engaging in slave trade. Bans use of US-owned ships in the slave trade. Penalties include seizure and forfeiture of the ship and a fine of $20,000. Great Britain bans Atlantic slave trade.

1812 During the American War of 1812-1815, Bermudian privateers captured 298 ships. The total captures by all British naval and privateering vessels between the Great Lakes and the West Indies was 1,593 vessels. Many Bermudian privateers were manned by slaves. Barbary pirates return to the practice preying on US merchant ships and their crews.

1816 Piracy in the West Indies continues after the end of War of 1812. Chippewa wrecks in the TCI while on anti-piracy patrol in Caribbean. American owned and operated ships continue to be used illegally in the slave trade.

1817 Spain agrees under intense pressure to immediately end slave trade north of equator and south of the equator in 1820.

1819 US law equates slave trading with piracy, punishable by death. US sends first group of Navy ships to coast of Africa to suppress slave trade.

1824 Great Britain and US negotiate a treaty recognizing the slave trade as piracy and establishing procedures for joint suppression with the penalty of death for convicted pirates.

1833 Great Britain passes Abolition of Slavery Act, providing for emancipation in British West Indies (including Turks & Caicos Islands)

1839 Six American slave ships and their crews are taken to New York City to be tried as pirates. Amistad seized off Long Island and taken to New London. Recommendation that US dispatch a Navy squadron to West Africa to patrol for American slavers.

1841 Trouvadore wrecks off East Caicos. Illegal sale of US vessels to Spanish slave traders continues. US Supreme Court upholds the freedom of Amistad Africans.

1842 Webster-Ashburton Treaty signed with Great Britain calling for a final end to the slave trade on the high seas.

1843 Okkahye wrecks in the Turks & Caicos Islands while on anti-slavery patrol in the Caribbean. A unit of US Navy ships, the African Squadron, is dispatched to the coast of West Africa to suppress the slave trade.

1845 Thirty-six British Navy ships are assigned to the Anti-Slavery Squadron, making it one of the largest fleets in the world.

1859 Four British Navy steamers stationed around Cuba to intercept American slave ships.

1859 African Squadron becomes more active and in two years seven slave ships were seized, resulting in the liberation of nearly 4,300 Africans.

1862 African Slave Trade Treaty Act between United States and Britain signed for the suppression of the slave trade.

1888 Slavery in the Americas abolished.