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How many slaves were on the White Lion?

The White Lion was a Dutch privateer ship that brought the first African slaves to the English colonies in North America in 1619. The White Lion arrived at Point Comfort in Hampton, Virginia carrying 20 to 30 slaves who had been captured from a Portuguese slave ship sailing from Angola. The exact number of slaves brought on the White Lion is unknown, but estimates range from 20 to 30 based on historical records.

When did the White Lion arrive in Virginia?

The White Lion arrived at Point Comfort, Virginia in late August 1619. This was several weeks before the arrival of another ship, the Treasurer, which brought a small number of additional slaves to Virginia. The landing of the slaves from the White Lion is considered the first recorded landing of Africans in English North America.

Why did the White Lion go to Virginia?

The White Lion was originally sailing as part of a Dutch fleet targeting Spanish ships and colonies in the Americas. The fleet had made stops in the Caribbean to trade and resupply. On its way back across the Atlantic, the White Lion came upon a Portuguese slave ship sailing from Angola. The White Lion attacked and seized around 50-60 slaves from the Portuguese ship.

Heading back to Europe, the White Lion decided to stop in Virginia to trade and sell the slaves. Virginia was an English colony at the time growing tobacco that relied heavily on labor. There was high demand for workers, so the White Lion found eager buyers for the slaves in Virginia.

How many slaves were sold in Virginia?

It is believed 20-30 slaves from the White Lion were sold in Virginia. Some historical accounts put the number at around 20 slaves, while others suggest it may have been as high as 30. The exact number is difficult to determine due to limited records from the time.

The slaves were sold or traded for provisions in Virginia. Colonial records show that some were sold to Governor Sir George Yeardley and Cape Merchant Abraham Peirsey. Some of the White Lion slaves may have been transferred to indentured servitude contracts rather than sold outright.

What happened to the other slaves on the White Lion?

After stopping in Virginia, the White Lion continued on its voyage across the Atlantic back to Europe. The ship was said to be carrying between 50-60 slaves total seized from the Portuguese ship. That means there were approximately 30-40 slaves remaining on board after the stop in Virginia.

It is believed these remaining slaves were sold in ports in Spain or Portugal once the White Lion completed its voyage across the Atlantic. There are no definitive records documenting what happened to the other slaves, but standard practice at the time would have been to sell them at European slave markets.

What was the significance of the White Lion’s arrival?

The arrival of the White Lion marked the introduction of slavery into Britain’s North American colonies. While some European indentured servants and Native American slaves were already present, the landing of the Africans from the White Lion represented the beginning of large-scale race-based slavery. It marked a transition away from indentured servitude as the colonies’ main labor source.

The number of slaves imported steadily grew in the decades after 1619. By the 1660s, slavery was codified into Virginia’s laws. The demands of the labor-intensive tobacco and cotton industries fueled the growth of slavery across the colonial South.

So while the White Lion only delivered a small group, it represented the start of an enormously consequential shift, introducing the concept of racially-based perpetual slavery into British North America. The date 1619 became symbolic as the inception point of slavery in America.

How many slave ships came to America in 1619?

Two slave ships are known to have arrived in North America in 1619:

  • The White Lion – Arrived in Virginia in August with 20-30 slaves from Angola
  • The Treasurer – Arrived in Virginia in September with a small number of slaves from Angola

The Treasurer arrived several weeks after the White Lion and delivered fewer slaves, making the White Lion the first recorded slave ship to reach the English colonies. The Treasurer is estimated to have delivered around 4-6 slaves.

Together, the two ships are estimated to have unloaded between 24-36 African slaves. The White Lion’s cargo was the first major influx of enslaved Africans to the fledgling Virginia colony.

How many slave ships came to America before 1619?

The ships arriving in 1619 were the first known major slave ships bringing Africans to the English colonies. Prior to 1619, there was some limited human trafficking to the colonies, but no large-scale slave trade routes.

There are a few cases of Africans being brought to the English territories in small numbers before 1619:

  • In 1616, a Spanish ship seized by an English privateer later sold around 10 slaves in Bermuda.
  • In 1618, an English warship called the Treasurer intercepted a Spanish frigate carrying around 50 slaves and took a small number to Bermuda.

However, the 1619 ships were the first purposeful attempts to bring larger numbers of Africans across the Atlantic for sale and slavery in the North American colonies.

How many Europeans came to America by 1619?

By 1619, England had established its first successful colonies in North America at Jamestown, Virginia (founded 1607) and Plymouth, Massachusetts (founded 1620). The total European population in English territories in North America by 1619 is estimated as:

  • Jamestown colony – Around 600 settlers
  • Plymouth colony – Around 50 settlers (arrived after White Lion in 1620)
  • Other English territories – Around 300 settlers

So the total European population in the colonies was likely under 1,000 in 1619. The influx of 20-30 Africans on the White Lion represented a small but significant increase to the colonial population at the time.

How many slaves were in America by 1625?

In the years following 1619, the African slave trade to English colonies started to steadily expand. By 1625:

  • Virginia had around 23 slaves total
  • Massachusetts had around 30 slaves total

So the total enslaved African population in English North America colonies is estimated to have been around 50-60 by 1625. This grew from the original White Lion cargo of 20-30 slaves in 1619.

The early 1620s saw a slow but continuous trickle of slave ships arriving in Virginia. Some key events included:

  • 1621 – Ship James brings 6 slaves to Virginia
  • 1622 – Ship Margaret brings 12 slaves to Virginia
  • 1623 – Two ships bring total of 17 slaves to Virginia

So despite the modest start, the colonists’ demand for slave labor was already taking hold by 1625.

How many slaves were in America by 1650?

Over the next few decades, the slave population in the English colonies increased rapidly:

  • 1650 – Virginia has 300 slaves
  • 1650 – Maryland has 100 slaves
  • 1650 – Massachusetts has approximately 100 slaves
  • 1650 – New York has around 100 slaves
  • 1650 – Other colonies have around 50 slaves

So the total enslaved population in the English colonies reached around 650 by 1650. This growth was driven by surging demand for labor, especially in the Southern tobacco colonies.

The early 1650s marked the real take-off point for slavery’s expansion. For example, Virginia alone imported over 1,000 slaves between 1650-1660.

How many slaves were imported to America through the slave trade?

Over the course of the Atlantic slave trade from the 16th to 19th centuries, scholars estimate that around 12.5 million Africans were forcibly shipped to the Americas as slaves. Of these, estimates suggest:

  • Around 388,000 were sent to North America
  • Around 1.2 million to British Caribbean colonies
  • Around 5.8 million to Spanish Americas and Brazil
  • Around 4.9 million to Portuguese Brazil

The vast majority were imported between around 1650 and 1807 when most European nations banned the slave trade. At the peak in the late 18th century, slave ships were transporting over 80,000 Africans across the Atlantic per year.

How many slaves were born in America?

As the slave population grew through importation, a substantial number of slaves were also born in the Americas. By 1830, the slave population in the U.S. had grown to over 2 million people.

It’s estimated that around 500,000 slaves were brought to the U.S. between the 17th and 19th century. The remainder of the 2 million people were born in the U.S., with slave families naturally increasing through childbirth.

The domestic slave trade also emerged within the U.S., with over 1 million slaves estimated to have been transported from the Upper South to Deep South in the first half of the 19th century alone.


The White Lion’s arrival in 1619 marked the early beginnings of slavery in England’s North American colonies. While only a small number were originally unloaded in Virginia, it represented a pivotal transition toward large-scale race-based slavery to support the agricultural economy. Over the next decades and centuries, the enslaved population grew dramatically through ongoing slave shipments and natural increase, ultimately reaching around 4 million people by the Civil War era.