.…under President Thomas Jefferson, Congress passed the Act to Prohibit the Importation of Slaves. Effective January 1st, 1808, this act prohibited any ship or vessel on United States ports or territories
“to import or bring into the United States or the territories thereof from any foreign kingdom, place, or country, any negro, mulatto, or person of colour, with intent to hold, sell, or dispose of such negro, mulatto, or person of colour, as a slave, or to be held to service or labour.”
In December 1806, President Jefferson, in his sixth address to Congress, urged the representatives to ban the importation of slaves from outside of the domestic borders. Up until this point, the abolishment of slave importation was prohibited by the United States Constitution. In his address to Congress, President Jefferson stated that
“[you] may interpose your authority constitutionally, to withdraw the citizens of the United States from all further participation in those violations of human rights which have been so long continued on the unoffending inhabitants of Africa, and which the morality, the reputation, and the best interests of our country, have long been eager to proscribe.”
Seen as a culmination of the past three decades, the Act signaled the decline of slavery within the United States. Prior to the Act to Prohibit the Importation of Slaves, Congress passed the Slave Trade Act of 1794 making the transportation of slaves from American ports to another foreign country illegal. When the law was enacted on January 1st, 1808, the day was recognized as a black holiday and was commemorated by sermons throughout the African American community, which are today recognized as the first collection of black writing in the United States.