I wanted to share this interesting infographic from Archives.com showing the growth of diversity in America from 1820 to 2009, which was done in celebration of Family History Month. A lot of research went into this but I have to confess my first thought was – what about Africans brought to this country in slavery or what I view as “forced” immigration. If you’re wondering the same thing, here’s what happened.
The timeline in the Family History Month infographic below picks up right as there was a major shift in the politics on slavery. In 1820, the United States took a bold step when it made the trading of African slaves a crime of “piracy” that was punishable by death. From that point on, those engaging in the slave trade did so at the peril of their lives. As a result, the number of African slaves entering this country dropped to a fraction of what it used to be.
Even though the African slave trade was effectively shut down, the numbers of slaves in the U.S. continued to grow unchecked at a phenomenal rate between 1820 and the abolishment of slavery in 1865. It still boggles the mind at how convoluted political thought process could make trading slaves a crime but continuing the institution of slavery still legal? Sadly, it took America far too long to sort that one out.
As the great great granddaughter of both a slave and a slaveowner, the public and personal politics behind the institution of slavery are always lurking in the corner of my mind as I do Black family genealogy. If you decide to learn more about your family this October during Family History Month, spice up research about your ancestors by taking a peek at the politics in play during their times.