“Slavery” describes the condition of a person or people in permanent servitude, dating back to practices of human bondage that began during ancient times. These practices have taken different forms in the evolutionary sprawl of societies from small kingdoms through the vast reach of European imperialism. Primarily due to geographic proximity, throughout most of world history, people have been enslaved by others who have been “racially” (in our modern sense) identical. It was not until the early modern history (sixteenth and seventeenth centuries) that slavery assumed a racialized dimension, as the expansion of European empires accelerated with the Atlantic slave trade. New constructions of national, ethnic, and racial difference emerged as the concept of “race” developed as a crucial teleological justification for the enslavement of millions of Africans and their forced migration to the Americas. This point stresses the need for a substantive grasp of slavery and its central relationship within African American studies.