Anthony Johnson; American's First Slave Owner
How African Slavery was legalised in the United States
- Exploding the Myth
- Indentured Servitude
- The Right of a Citizen to Bring a Matter before the Court
- The Year was 1654
- The Result
Exploding the Myth
Students of American History are taught that in 1619 the first Africans arrived in Jamestown. The inference is that they were slaves.
This is untrue.
This can be proven to be untrue.
It persists because is it a bit less painful that the truth.
Labour in what would become the United States was supplied by Indentured Labourers. These were persons who, for whatever reason, would have their passage paid and then be bound to work for a 'master' for a period of years.
At the end of the period the Indentured Labourer was freed; given a piece of land, supplies, a gun, and become part of the colony.
The Africans which arrive in 1619 were treated as indentured servants. They were fed, housed, worked and were freed.
Antonio was born in Angola. He came to America on a ship called the James in 1621. He was sold as an Indentured servant to an Englishman named Bennett and worked for twelve years in the colonial settlement of Jamestown.
He was freed, changed his name to Anthony Johnson.
He had married an African woman who took the name of Mary and acquired 250 acres of land. Two of his sons, John and Richard, were also able to acquire land once they became adults.
Anthony Johnson used African Indentured labourers. One of them was John Casar.
The Right of a Citizen to Bring a Matter before the Court
Expecting to be released from his indenture to Anthony Johnson, John Casar arranged to work for a white neighbour, Robert Parker.
Anthony Johnson brought the matter before the Court, claiming that John was not a servant but a slave.
The Court heard evidence from Johnson, from Parker, from Casar.
The fact Johnson could bring a matter to court and be heard is cogent proof he was seen as a citizen of the colony with all the rights of a citizen. Including the right to bring a matter before the Court, and give evidence.
The Year was 1654
The early settlers of what would become the United States had made treaties with the Native Americans. These treaties concerned land.
With so many indentured servants being freed, with so much land being required, the borders defined by treaty were breached.
The Native Americans fought to regain their land, the Settlers fought against the Native Americans to keep the land they had captured.
In settlements in which the treaties were respected, (such as those in Virginia) there grew up a great underclass of landless people, White and Black, who had no where to go and no work to do.
Anthony Johnson now offers a solution.
Declare all Africans to be slaves for life.
No need to import indentured servants.
The Court ruled in favour of Anthony Johnson, against the petition of Parker, a wealthy white planter. John Casar was a slave.
Slavery was now legalised. No need to bring in any more Europeans. Use African labour. Slave Trading became the new hot industry.
With Slave traders, Slave renters, Slave Transporters, Slave Farms, at least half of the population in the South had an economic base which stood firmly on Slavery.
From 1654 until 1864; two hundred and ten years, slavey existed in the United States.
And all because of Anthony Johnson.