Naval Weapons Station Yorktown

Slavery took hold on the York River

Slavery took hold on the York River

Slavery may not have been born on the banks of the York River. But the rich alluvial soil that made the region's sweet-scented tobacco so popular and profitable during the late 1600s provided the historic ground where Virginia's slave culture took root and blossomed.

Just up the hill from the docks where thousands of souls were sold into servitude during the early 1700s, however, the descendants of those slaves gathered in droves during the Civil War, forming a pioneering black settlement and even taking up arms for freedom.

Cradle of slavery. When English colonists began settling the south bank of the York River in the 1630s, enslaved black labor was the...