1619 is significant because it provides a firm historical record for the beginning of slavery in the North American colonies, according to About.com. A Dutch trading ship, in need of food and supplies, docked at Point Comfort, Va., and traded 20 African slaves in return for goods.
Slavery in the colonies got off to a slow start. About.com says that most people living in the colonies relied on indentured servants for their labor force during the beginning of the 17th century. In 1625, Virginia contained only 23 Africans, and these numbers grew slowly, making up only 3 to 4 percent of the population by the mid 1600s. White indentured servants, who lived and worked in ways that were usually indistinguishable from the slaves, were still found in far greater numbers. A PBS time line of slavery says that in 1640, a black servant named John Punch ran away with two white companions. Upon his capture, he was sentenced to servitude for life, making Punch the first documented slave for life. His white companions were punished only with extended terms of servitude. As the century came to a close, fewer white Europeans were willing to come to America as indentured servants, so the colonies came to rely on slavery more and more.