January 1, 1808 — On this day the importation of slaves into the United States was abolished as the result of the Congressional act of March 3, 1807.
The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture describes this on their website:
On March 3, 1807, President Thomas Jefferson signed into act a bill approved by Congress the day before “to prohibit the importation of slaves into any port or place within the jurisdiction of the United States.” Three weeks later, on the 25th, the British House of Lords passed an Act for the Abolition of The Slave Trade.
In neither country did the new legislations imply the immediate end of the international slave trade. In Great Britain, slavers had until May 1 to comply; and those who had left British ports before or on that date were exempted from the prohibition. They could, lawfully, land African captives in the Americas until March 1, 1808. As for the United States, the Constitution of 1783 in its article I, section 9 had clearly spelled out that the international slave trade could not be banned before 1808, and it is only on January 1, 1808 that the American act went into effect. And neither in the U.S.A. nor in Great Britain did the new laws mean suppression. Africans continued to be deported to the United States until 1860; and British ships and manufactures were deeply involved in the trade throughout the 19th century.
Of course, the history of the abolition of slavery is a complex story. And recognition and commemoration of slavery’s ending, let alone of slavery’s full historical impact, was a slow and laborious undertaking. Perhaps we are still going through that process. The Schomburg website continues:
At the dawn of the 21st century, in 2001, the international community recognized the slave trade as a crime against humanity. Throughout 2007, the United Kingdom commemorated the bicentennial of the abolition of her slave trade. On 25 March 2008, the United Nations observed the first annual worldwide commemoration of the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade, and that year also marks the bicentenary of the U.S. official end of the international slave trade.
Beyond the legal acts of two hundred years ago and the commemorations of today, it is crucial to understand the full story of the abolition. This website provides resources for exploring the various dimensions and consequences, and the impact of decisions made and actions taken or not taken on four continents two centuries ago. It offers insights into the slave trade to the United States, African resistance, abolitionism, the U.S. Constitution and the Slave Trade Acts, 19th century African-American celebrations of the 1807 Act, the illegal slave trade, the campaign to revive the trade, and the end of the Africans’ deportation.
For interesting information about the abolition of the slave trade, visit the website of The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture of the New York Public Library.
— Linda Duyer