1 January 1808

The United States bans the importation of slaves.

The full title of the act is “An Act to Prohibit the Importation of Slaves into any Port or Place Within the Jurisdiction of the United States, From and After the First Day of January, in the Year of our Lord One Thousand Eight Hundred and Eight.”

This legislation marked an important step in the efforts to abolish the transatlantic slave trade. The act made it illegal to import slaves into the United States after January 1, 1808. The Constitution had originally provided for the prohibition of the slave trade after 20 years, allowing it until 1808. The Act Prohibiting Importation of Slaves enforced this constitutional provision.

Penalties for violating the act included fines and forfeiture of the enslaved individuals who were imported contrary to the law. Despite the legal prohibition, illegal slave trade continued, and the enforcement of the act was not always rigorous.