Where did Blacks in Philly begin?!


The first documented African in the Pennsylvania region was a slave named Anthony Swartz.  Anthony (it is worth mentioning that this was his ‘known’ and not ‘given’ name) arrived aboard a Swedish Ship named the Fogel Grip  from St. Kitts. He was said to be of Angolan decent. He worked as a slave to the Governor or New Sweden ( A Sweedish Colony of the PA.N.J. D.E. region) and arrived in 1639.

Original settlers to the reign were interested more in extracting materials for their homelands than sticking around and farming. However this all changed as more settlers came with families and colonial expansion. Early settlers contracted with The Dutch West  Indian Trading Company for the importation of African slaves for their ‘agricultural purposes’.

In 1681 William Penn was granted his charter for Pennsylvania and Philadelphia his, ‘Holy Experiment‘, was founded in 1682. During this time most Africans were brought to the area as slaves via the Caribbean. This was due to the spice trade between  local merchants and the Caribbean Islands. The first documented African slaves arrive in Philadelphia aboard the Isabella in 1684 and were sold to Quakers. Historian Gary Nash (and fellow Philadelphian) estimates that by the late 1700’s 1 in 15 Philadelphian families owned slaves.(1)


1. Gary B. Nash, Forging Freedom: The Formation of Philadelphia’s Black Community, 1720-1840 (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1988), 10, 14, 33



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