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Massachusetts was the first British colony to legally recognize slavery in 1641.In 1662 Virginia passed a law that children of enslaved women (who were of African descent and thus foreigners) took the status of the mother, rather than that of the father, as under English common law. In 1670 the colonial assembly passed a law prohibiting free and baptized negroes (and Indians) from purchasing Christians (in this act meaning English or European whites) but allowing them to buy people "of their owne nation".The slaves not only constituted a large investment, they produced America's most valuable product and export: cotton. (Washington was a slave trading center.) Similar building projects existed in slaveholding states.In 1863, during the American Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation.In 1640, the Virginia General Court recorded the earliest documentation of lifetime slavery when they sentenced John Punch, a Negro, to lifetime servitude under his master Hugh Gwyn for running away.
By 1775, Africans made up 20% of the population in the American colonies, which made them the second largest ethnic group after the English. Slavery, which by then meant almost exclusively African Americans, was the most important political issue in the antebellum United States, leading to one crisis after another.De Ayllón and many of the colonists died shortly afterwards of an epidemic and the colony was abandoned.The settlers and the slaves who had not escaped returned to Haiti, whence they had come. population of Americans of West/Central African ancestry.For the African diaspora throughout the Americas, see Afro-American peoples of the Americas.
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According to US Census Bureau data, African immigrants generally do not self-identify as African American.