William Tucker was the first person of African ancestry born in the 13 British Colonies. His birth symbolized the beginnings of a distinct African American identity along the eastern coast of what would eventually become the United States.
According to the 1624-1625 Virginia Census, 22 Africans lived in Virginia at the time of Tucker’s birth. These first Africans in Virginia received the same rights, privileges, responsibilities, and punishments as their white indentured counterparts from Great Britain.
In 1811, Charles Deslondes was the leader of the largest slave revolt known as the German Coast Uprising. Deslondes led between 300-500 slaves wreaking havoc on the region, setting plantations on fire as they marched towards New Orleans, and recruited additional slaves, while white residents fled to the city of New Orleans or the backwoods. Deslondes was executed on January 15th. His body was mutilated, dismembered, and put on public display as a warning against other attempts at slave uprisings.
A freeman his entire life, Hiram Rhodes Revels was the first African American to serve in the U.S. Congress. With his moderate political orientation and oratorical skills honed from years as a preacher, Revels filled a vacant seat in the United States Senate in 1870. Republican Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts sized up the importance of the moment: “All men are created equal, says the great Declaration,” Sumner roared, “and now a great act attests this verity. Today we make the Declaration a reality….”