Stolen People on Stolen Land

In 1492, Christopher Columbus landed on the Taíno island of Guanahani (now part of the Bahamas). The arrival of Spanish ships unleashed a series of devastating changes for millions of Natives and Africans and their descendants.

European colonizers set about seizing Native land and enslaving Native peoples. The demand for even more laborers swelled, and the slave trade exploded. Sea traders bought kidnapped Africans and shipped them across the Atlantic to sell them into slavery. Colonial rulers made laws and policies that treated Natives and Africans as inferior to Europeans. For many generations, these laws and attitudes damaged the lives of Native and African peoples.

Papal bull Inter Caetera, 1493

Papal bull Inter Caetera, 1493

With this decree, Pope Alexander VI gave Spain a free hand to colonize the Americas—to convert Native peoples to Catholicism and subjugate them to European monarchs.

Courtesy Library of Congress, Rare Books Division