The Early Era

Slave Ship
A slave ship from 1860. The men are on the
lower deck, while the women are above.
Library of Congress, LC-USZ62-41678.

The Early Era was a period of proto-colonial America spanning from 1400 to the early 1600s.  During this time, civilizations were expanding beyond their geographic areas. The advent of seafaring technology provoked inquisitive minds to explore and interact with other regions of the globe. In the western hemisphere, indigenous people populated the various continents. Concurrently, European explorers ventured out and found land and opportunity for conquest and settlements.  Although the land was occupied, European explorers sought to expand their empires and fought with indigenous peoples, conquering some, enslaving others and pushing some westward towards the Pacific Ocean.

The African presence in America during this period served to replace indentured European servants and conquered indigenous populations. Their complexion and alien presence allowed them to be a highly visible and distinct workforce.



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