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During and immediately following the Revolutionary War, abolitionist laws were passed in most Northern states and a movement developed to abolish slavery.Most of these states had a higher proportion of free labor than in the South and economies based on different industries.But, in 1640, a Virginia court sentenced John Punch, an African, to slavery after he attempted to flee his service.Slaves could be held if they were captives of war, if they sold themselves into slavery or were purchased from elsewhere, or if they were sentenced to slavery as punishment by the governing authority.The Spanish usually baptized slaves in Africa before embarking them.As English custom then considered baptized Christians exempt from slavery, colonists treated these Africans as indentured servants, and they joined about 1,000 English indentured servants already in the colony.

For slavery in the colonial period, see Slavery in the colonial United States.

The largest denominations, the Baptist, Methodist, and Presbyterian churches, split over the slavery issue into regional organizations of the North and South.

When Abraham Lincoln won the 1860 election on a platform of halting the expansion of slavery, seven states broke away to form the Confederacy.

The transformation of the social status of Africans, from indentured servitude to slaves in a racial caste which they could not leave or escape, happened gradually.

There were no laws regarding slavery early in Virginia's history.

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