The first Africans were brought to America in 1619 as indentured servants, which meant they served an amount of time as slaves to pay off their crossing and were released after settling their debt. Unlike indentured servants from Europe, they didn’t enter into this agreement willingly. However, in 1641, the American colonies began to legalize slavery, beginning in Massachusetts, and a racially-based system of slavery was instituted. This was based on the system already in place in the West Indies.
The Revolutionary War was a culmination of mounting tensions between Great Britain and the American colonies. A climate of rebellion stirred in the colonies after a number of British actions stifled their autonomy. One of the first laws imposed on the colonies was the Quartering Act, requiring citizens to open their homes to soldiers. Soon after, the Stamp Tax Act was levied on a number of documents, meaning many printed materials were taxed without the consent of the colonial legislature. A responsive cry rang out through the colonies: “no taxation without representation!”