The Background and Setting of the
Civil Rights Act of 1964
Robert D. Loevy
The first permanent English colony in North America was founded at Jamestown, Virginia, in May 1607. Twelve years later, in 1619, a Dutch ship sailed into the harbor at Jamestown and sold twenty African slaves to the Virginia colonists. Thus did "slavery" and "involuntary servitude," as they are referred to in the United States Constitution, come to the American South.
Negro slaves, brought in chains from their original homelands in central and southern Africa, proved useful and profitable in what was to become the southern United States. The flat farmlands, served by meandering tidewater rivers, were ideal for creating large plantations for growing cotton and other agricultural products. The African slaves provided a cheap and reliable source of agricultural and household labor for the emerging southern economy.
North of Virginia, where there were more hills and a harsher climate, the use of human slaves was not as successful. This part of the American colonies, the North, harnessed the labor of yeoman farmers and men and women working for wages. This created one of the great sectional differences of United States history--a group of southern states that relied heavily on slave labor and a group of northern states emphasizing the work and industry of free citizens.