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Founding of Maryland
Maryland developed from a tract of country belonging to the original
grant of Virginia. George Calvert, the First Lord Baltimore, was looking for land
with a similar climate to that of England on which to establish his new colony.
He put his sights on obtaining land in Virginia, parts of which had already been
Tobacco was the main export (corn was second), tied planters to others in the
Atlantic region, and provided the main means of wealth and prosperity, and life
choices. Tobacco was the only crop having a fully-developed market that extended
to the Chesapeake. The market included English and Dutch merchants who had been
trading with colonists in Virginia.
African Import and Slavery
It is believed that approximately 20 Africans arrived in Port Comfort in late
August 1619 on a Dutch ship and that by the 1650's the numbers had grown between
300-400. It is assumed that they probably arrived in small groups, particularly
during intense Dutch trade activity in the 1640's and 1650's. The origins of slaves
were diverse, coming from Africa, by way of England, from the British Caribbean,
and a substantial number from Spanish and Portuguese colonies. Although there
were places along the Bay where English colonists and African-Americans resided
congenially side-by-side as near equals, it is certain that most Africans were
slaves and most Europeans assumed that this arrangement was appropriate for them.
It is speculated that all "blacks" probably arrived as slaves but that some were
freed and all enjoyed rights that slaves in other states did not. Africans were
able to become assimilated into the colonies by learning English, becoming Christians,
and mastering work routines of the Europeans. Life for slaves changed drastically
in the 1660's as a result of legislation in both Maryland and Virginia. As European
servants became scarce and expensive, and subsequently as African labor dominated
the labor force, a caste system came into effect, sealing the fate of slaves and
removing opportunities for freedom and advancement. Even if they were freed, there
were significant declines in their freedom, leaving them nothing more than slaves
without masters. (Menard 1984) Slaves who arrived in Maryland in the 1670's would
be slaves for life. They would face a harsh environment in which they were subject
to volatile diseases, a shortage of women resulting in low reproduction, abusive
masters, isolation from other Africans, and restriction of mobility. Regardless,
they eventually improved their lives and by the 1720's, there were enough native-born
African-Americans in Maryland to create its own slave population. From this grew
a distinctive American culture for Africans.
--Early Immigration to Maryland in the Colonial Era: St. Mary's City http://www.clis.umd.edu/~mddlmddl/791/communities/html/
Genweb: General Maryland genealogical information.