North America's 1st Black Town?

100 Amazing Facts About the Negro: It was founded during slavery, and it wasn't in the U.S. South.

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Their demands included 11 conditions, Landers tells us, among these: freedom for all of the runaway slaves who had lived in the settlement before 1608; official recognition of the town's sovereignty, including the right of Yanga and his heirs to become governors; exclusion of the Spanish, except on market days; and a Roman Catholic church administered by Franciscan monks. In return, Yanga agreed to pay tribute to the Spanish and to serve the king militarily when asked. They also agreed to return future fugitive slaves, if paid for returning them, but subsequent complaints from the Spanish suggest that the town continued to be a haven for runaway slaves. 

Yanga and his followers established the town of San Lorenzo de los Negros (also called San Lorenzo de Cerralvo) in 1609, and it was formally recognized by the Spanish in 1618. Landers quotes an Italian visitor in 1697 commenting that San Lorenzo was so full of black people that it "would make anyone think they were in Guinea." Now called Yanga, after its founder, the town exists to this day in the state of Veracruz.

As always, you can find more "Amazing Facts About the Negro" on The Root, and check back each week as we count to 100.

Henry Louis Gates Jr. is the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and the director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African-American Research at Harvard University. He is also the editor-in-chief of The Root.

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